I say “recovered” in this title not for whimsy or to make fun of people who recover from real illnesses or specific eating disorders. I use this word because I do literally feel like I’ve recovered. Like I went through a time of toxicity; that hurt me and held me back. In that time, I hurt and held myself back.
But I’m past that now, and I’m so bloody grateful…
My relationship with food pre-2017
Apparently, when I was little, like under five years old, I did eat more variety. But something happened, I don’t know what, and I began to become fussier.
Yes, that word is now a bit of a trigger for me. I was called a “fussy eater” by family and it was said with judgment, shame, and malice. I was weird. I was different. I was spoilt and didn’t just eat what I was given, the same as everyone else.
Coming from a Jamaican background, on my mom’s side, I was also made to feel bad for not liking Jamaican food. For eating tomato soup with fried dumplings (the only Jamaican delicacy I liked back then) with my dinner, while my siblings and cousins ate rice and beans and jerk chicken and fish and the rest.
My whole menu of enjoyed foods was short:
- Hot dogs
- Chicken nuggets
- Pizza (just pepperoni)
- Heinz tomato soup
And that might be it. I’d eat mash with Sunday dinner but it was that horrid powdered instant mash mixture. And of course, there were no vegetables. Just mash, Yorkshire puddings and shredded, tomato sauce-smothered chicken.
It’s sad, right?
I want to cry writing this because I was so unhealthy and limited and sad within myself because don’t you think I felt upset looking at the colours in a salad and wanting to like it, but hating it?
You see, I used to literally gag eating vegetables and fruits. Gag. My body rejected what I wanted (and needed) to eat so badly.
I’ve spoken a bit about my social anxiety on my blog and podcast. Food was a massive part of that. At parties, people’s houses, meals, gatherings, whatever, you socialise and eat, right? Well, I was a fussy eater. I felt ashamed of what I ate. It added to the fear of every event I was invited to.
Texture was an issue. How something felt in my mouth: too hard, too soft, too bumpy, too squishy. If I knew what the food was, I imagined a taste and didn’t want it. I didn’t eat a lot, either, which added to my fears and embarrassment when I went out, especially as my teen friends were big eaters (while being young and beautiful and slim!).
The worst experience of my life was out at a restaurant with my whole year group. It was the end of the school year and exams were done and so we rented out a curry house and everyone was there.
But I couldn’t eat.
I ordered a steak and chips because I thought that was safer as someone who didn’t like curry at the time.
But I couldn’t stomach more the three bites of the massive, full plate of food.
Only three bites.
My friends knew of my struggle and tried to help me, but they had already eaten their own filling meals. The waiters came to take the food away, and I just looked so embarrassed and apologised and said I had already eaten at home and I was so sorry.
But we leave the restaurant and we’re out and my anxiety had subsided so now guess what? I was hungry!
For God’s sake.
That wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, it was just the massive scale, all my year group being there that made it worse. They probably thought I had an eating disorder. That was one of my biggest fears, being judged and people thinking there was something wrong with me.
My anxiety was the monster that sat in my stomach and didn’t let me eat.
I’d like to thank my Aunt (not a biological aunt, more like a strong family friend) who once said to me in a restaurant that I was allowed to ask for something done my own way. That if they served chicken, I could ask for it plain without the fancy sauces that I didn’t like. She gave me permission to ask for what I wanted; for what I was paying for.
She made me feel normal.
My relationship with food post-2017
After two years with my partner, my eating habits began to change. I’d love to have a specific reason why or how, but I don’t. Patrick slowly introduced me to new things, and I tried it. My siblings did, too, and slowly I did like more things. It was only around 2017 when I started cooking more things for myself that I began to change completely.
In 2018, Patrick moved in with us and since we have cooked our own meals and experimented and now…my life is a kaleidoscope of colour…
Crunch and snap of broccoli and cabbage…
Juices squirting from fresh red pepper and cucumber…
The acidic but delicatable scent of onions that make you weep…
Enjoying the true meaning and range of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, and umani on my salivated tongue…
Ending a meal feeling joyous and nourished.
Choice and options are before me like never before. Instead of the usual “Pizza or a full plate of nuggets for dinner?” We now get overwhelmed with the choices in front of us!
- Chili con carne
- Homemade garlic bread
- Sea bass
- Spaghetti carbonara
- Pad Thai
- Chicken Chow Mein
- Battered prawns
- Rice! (how did I live without rice?!)
- Homemade soups
- Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower cheese, spinach, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, red onion, peppers…
- Strawberries, pineapples, grapefruits, mangoes, banana pancakes, avacado…
All made at home…How amazing is that?
I don’t eat nuggets anymore. I don’t eat the frozen oven pizzas. I don’t eat the frozen chargrilled chicken.
In a restaurant, there’s more than one meal I can eat and WANT to eat. I get a little nervous still (I still have social anxiety) but not as badly. It sometimes depends on who I’m going with and if it’s a new place or not. But I don’t doubt that I’ll eat and enjoy something on the menu; I don’t have to (though sometimes I do) check the menu before accepting to go.
And I never leave a full plate anymore. In fact, I feel excited to try new things and hopefully find something new and delicious!
When I’m sitting there devouring popcorn or eating red onion or broccoli for the third time that day, Patrick will tell me to calm down, slow down! And I just say, “hey, I’m making up for the lost years when I didn’t eat these amazing foods!”
And it’s exactly like that; it feels like sad, lost time when I could have been eating such beautiful foods for longer.
But I’m so proud of where I’m at. Excited for the distance I can still go.
Despite worries about weight gain, I’m just trying to enjoy the feeling of finally, FINALLY, enjoying food.
Thank you, Universe, for letting me do so.