Yesterday, I had my third meeting with my new counselor. The focus of our conversation for the day was how I was doing with food. You see, on Friday I met with a new nutritionist for the first time in almost two years and she gave me a meal plan to follow so Katie just wanted to check in and see how I was doing. Neither of us would have guessed the entire session would be taken up by this topic but I’m sure glad it was.
I spent some time telling Katie about how I feel constantly pulled between the two voices in my head; the eating disorder side and the common sense/recovery side. I so badly want to work with a nutritionist so that I can begin to let go of this hell of a disorder and discover what “normal” eating is in regards to my life and my world. At the same time though, the more I press into recovery the more I want to cling to my disorder and resist the change. I’m scared that my body will betray me and go out of control if I begin to eat normally and that is a horrifying thought.
Katie decided to work with the imagery of cliff jumping to help me work through this and to find a solution to my problem. A solution that will allow me to move forward and work with my meal plan but to do so in a way that isn’t too much too soon and in a way where I can slowly let go and begin to trust my body. So when I look at my meal plan some of the steps seem like 75 foot cliffs I’m about to jump off of and honestly I’m not ready for those cliffs. So Katie proposed that instead of jumping off of those cliffs I work myself down and jump off a smaller cliff, like a 15 or 20 foot cliff.
With a 75 foot cliff you can see the bottom and guess what the water is like below, but you don’t 100% know for sure that things will be safe when you jump off the cliff. You are taking a big leap and a huge chance with how things are going to turn out. However, with a 15 or 20 foot cliff things are different. These cliffs help me see the bottom more clearly, I feel safe, secure and I know that nothing detrimental will happen if the water I’m jumping into isn’t as clear as I thought it was.
As I thought about this it all began to make sense. Part of my meal plan was eating quinoa and veggies for lunch. Well I made a big batch of this over the weekend so I could just scoop some out everyday and not have to worry about cooking every day. I had originally cooked everything together and so all of the veggies and quinoa are combined in a big pot. As someone who counts calories this became a horrifying thought, how could I count accurately if I’ve mixed everything together and have no accurate way of measuring how much of each thing I have in the amount I’m eating. I was telling Katie about this and she and I decided this was a 75 foot cliff. I’m sure to some this seems so simple and like no big deal but to me this is a horrifying thought and something that was keeping me from wanting to work with my meal plan. Katie and I began to think of ways to take this 75 foot cliff and turn it into a 15 or 20 foot cliff that I felt comfortable and safe with. We decided that I would throw away what I had originally made and instead start fresh. With starting fresh I can make quinoa and veggies separately so that I can still count my calories and feel safe, but also eat the required amount I’m supposed to in order to follow my meal plan. This simple change made the cliff so much smaller and like one I could easily jump off of.
We also discussed other ways to work myself down from big cliffs to the little ones I can currently manage. One thing I struggle with is feeling guilty for not finishing a meal if it is placed in front of me, I feel guilty for not being recovered enough to eat everything so I usually do and it usually has bad consequences for me. So Katie proposed that from now on I cut my meal in half or a quarter or a third, etc. and eat that portion and deal with the remaining part later. Maybe I will feel strong enough to eat all of it but if I don’t then I don’t and I stay on my little cliff and know that it is okay to stay there and to be safe.
All of this talking with Katie began to put my anxiety, guilt, regret, and hate for nutrition meetings at ease and helped me understand how to better be gentle with myself and how to work in a functioning manner with my nutritionist to make things more reasonable and easy for me to handle with where I’m at in my recovery. I know it is not a perfect solution, I’m still engaging in some disordered habits by doing this, but it is the baby steps that matter. Some days I may feel strong enough to jump off of the 75 foot cliff and that is great and that is a huge step, but most days I won’t feel that way so I work myself down to a smaller cliff and over time I know the cliffs I work myself down to will be closer to the 75 foot cliff than the cliffs I used to work myself down to. I may work myself down to a 15 foot cliff now but with time maybe I will only work myself down to a 50 foot cliff or maybe I will make it to a 100 foot cliff one day when I feel like I can really challenge myself. No matter what though I have to remember, it is okay to work up and down the cliffs and to take chances or to play it safe when it comes to jumping off and into the water. I need to be able to trust the water I’m jumping into, I need to be able to trust myself and my body, and that means sticking to whatever cliff feels safe during each and every meal.
From now on, before I begin to prepare a meal I now will be asking myself, “Should I jump?” with this simple break I am able to check in see how I feel and determine if I should take the leap from this height or if I should move up or down to a higher or lower cliff. At the end of the day it isn’t important what heigh I jump from, what truly matters is that I jump and take a chance with recovery and move forward into the future where freedom and growth await me.