Tonight, we had dinner at a local pub. We sat tables across from my son’s classmate (their family is not very friendly, so this seating was unfortunate). The mom, who is quite slim, ordered a salad and picked at it. For a second, I looked down at my forkfuls of mac n’ cheese (swiped from my kids), veggie burger (I have been vegetarian for 2 decades), and french fries, and felt a bit ashamed. But then I remembered the days of being a salad person, and was overwhelmed with happiness that I am no longer a salad person.
Disclaimer: people who eat salads are good people. And salads are good for you. My concern is with being the type of person who would only order “salad, no bread, and dressing on the side, please” and then lose her shit if the dressing was accidentally mixed into the salad or someone dared throw a bread crumb in there. Or someone who spent 2 hours on the elliptical in college because she had “eaten too much” the day before and then headed to the cafeteria mid-day to eat her one meal of the day – salad.
In college, there was a painfully thin blonde freshman with wavy hair and glasses. All she ate was salad. We (including everyone with an eating disorder who didn’t actually think they had an eating disorder) called her Salad Girl. She would buy two trays full of just greens with nothing on them. Then she would work out next to me on the elliptical for 2 hours. There was a 30 minute limit for the elliptical (a popular machine if you have an eating disorder because you can “work out” while still exerting minimal effort since you’re always running on empty) so we would all sign up with different names. This was in the pre-everything-online days so we had to sign in by hand or call the night before. So if you were signing up twice you had to call twice and make sure you waited a while (sometimes hours) so the front desk wouldn’t catch on. But of course other people would see you on the elliptical for that long and realize you were not both Bridget and Amy.
I am so happy to no longer be a salad girl. Sometimes, I think the pendulum swung the other way – my diet is not the best at the moment. But I try to have a few healthy things sprinkled here and there, and mostly I do my best. And I count my blessings that I am no longer counting every calorie, obsessing over every bite, and mapping out the details of every workout – that shit was exhausting.
If you are struggling with food restriction, I don’t have any great advice for you, but I do want you to feel hopeful that your life will not always be this way. I never imagined I could live the way I do now – but here I am! One day the switch just flipped. The main reason I had an eating disorder was because I thought I needed it to succeed. I thought being thin was the ticket to career advancement, finding a man, getting married, having a family, and owning a white picket fence. I held on to that fantasy for dear life. And then when I was told I had to gain weight if I wanted to get pregnant, I panicked. But what about the rest of my life!? The amazing thing was this: when I gained weight, my life did change – it improved. My career went on, I stayed married, I had children, I bought that white picket fence, and, most importantly, I freed myself from the intense anxiety of choosing french fries over salad.
For the record, I now choose french fries 95% of the time, and despite owning an elliptical, I rarely use it.