I walk into the cafeteria. There are a lot of people here. I stand back in a corner so I don't get in the way. I watch as people pick what they want and order so quickly! How can they know what they want so fast!? It always takes me forever to decide what to get. That's why I stand out of the way. I start to look at the menu. I am not in here very often so I still don't know the menu very well. It's posted on the wall. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot the salad bar. "No jenn, don't look at it! That's not an option." I say to myself. I look over at the daily specials that are hot and ready for people to order. "Nope! Definitely not having that - too scary today!"
I glance back over at the salad bar. That would be the quick, easy, SAFE choice. But I am supposed to be challenging myself. I am supposed to be recovering. So I give a sigh and take a deep breath and look away from the salad bar. I look back at the regular menu on the wall and continue to dissect the items on the menu- mentally placing them in order of the most caloric and fattening to the least. I try not to do this. I know I shouldn't be doing this. But I have to! I am scared of what will happen if I choose the wrong thing. What if I make a mistake? What if I pick something and it's too hard for me to eat it? Then I will have to throw it away, and I will have failed...again!
More and more people are ordering. People are sitting at the tables. Some are eating alone, some are eating with others. But nobody seems to be concerned about what they are eating. "What would that be like? What would that feel like to eat and enjoy? To eat and carry on conversations with other people and not be obsessing about every bite?" The anxiety is getting worse. I need to hurry up and order already! I am taking too long. I look behind me at the fridge - so many choices in there too!! I don't know what to get! So many choices! "Why can't I just pick the salad bar and get out of here?" Do I pick something that is safe or do I challenge myself and pick something a bit more scary - something that sounds like it would be yummy?? Do I pick that and then risk the feelings of guilt that are sure to attack me once I start eating? Am I strong enough to fight off those ed thoughts today? Some days I am. Maybe this is one of those days.
Finally I pick something. It is a more challenging food. Its about in the middle of my mental list of the safest to the scariest. I start to approach the cook to tell him what I want. But wait! Am I sure that's what I should get? Maybe I need to rethink this decision and make sure I am choosing the right thing. Ugh! WHY do they have so many choices! This is too overwhelming for me! I wish they just had a few options. That would be so much easier. After a few minutes of more arguing to myself. I pick a different item. It's still in the middle of my list. "Okay, I am just going to hurry and order and just get out of here!" I order and I pay. I don't want to eat in the cafeteria. I hate eating in front of other people. It's too hard for me. I feel too self-conscious. So I walk back down to my desk where I am volunteering today. I am working by myself today and not very many people are coming in to ask for directions. So I won't have to worry about feeling self-conscious as I eat.
I sit down and take a deep breath. But the battle is only half over. Now I have to actually get through the meal with all the thoughts of how much should I eat, what should I eat first, how fast or slow should I eat?........
-----------This is usually how it goes for me when I go to restaurants, cafeteria's, ect. It's a process for me. It has been for a very long time. Way too long. But I am working on it. I am trying to not be so obsessive. People are always curious about what goes on in my head and why it takes me so long to order or decide what I am going to eat. It's because I am obsessing and arguing (or agreeing sometimes) with the ED thoughts. And of course, the length of time and the amount of obsessing depends on where I am in my recovery at the moment but it's never an easy thing for me... going back and forth between items on menus. Not sure "what I want" or "what I should get." My indecision is horrible when it comes to food. I am always amazed and in awe of people who know what they want and can order so quickly! Why aren't they obsessing about the calories and fat grams? Why aren't they looking and dissecting every single item on the menu? Why don't they have anxiety over "should I get something safe or should I challenge myself and get something that sounds good?"