“I like scones and I like croissants and I like doughnuts and I like cookies,” I say, gazing longingly at the sweet treats in the supermarket bakery aisle.
It’s Monday morning, and in an attempt to incorporate some variety into my monotonous meals, my mum and I are food shopping. We make our way up and down each aisle in turn, trying to find small things that I might feel able to add to my daily intake.
“Doesn’t this look amazing!” I exclaim, picking up a fancy bread, eyeing the calorie count, and returning it to the shelf.
“How about baked beans?” my mum asks, holding a tin of my old favourite. I shake my head.
I take a moment to peruse the easter chocolates, already making their way onto the shelves.
“Do you want to buy one?” My mum asks, catching me admiring a tiny Lindt chocolate rabbit. I shake my head again.
I pick up numerous items, check the nutritional information and then discard it. These are foods that once I would have eaten without a moment’s thought. Now all I see is calories.
“You’re going to make me cry in a minute,” my mum says as we stop by yet more food that in years gone by she would have bought me as a treat.
Our trip ends in the chocolate aisle. I agree to buy a bar, partly in the hope that I could manage to eat a square or two, but mostly to reassure my mum that I am trying to challenge myself.
And then I can feel it. The panic sets in. I am frozen to the spot, fighting back the tears. We have deliberately not bought much, but even the small selection of new foods in our trolley suddenly provokes my anxiety. It is difficult to explain exactly why I am anxious about this, but I find it stressful to have food that I know I will have to eat soon in the house. My mum does her best to reassure me, but I still feel uneasy as we make our way to pay. I appease my anorexia by making a last minute switch, from ‘light’ to ‘extra light’ soft cheese. I know it’s a backwards step. But suddenly the 6 calorie difference seems important.
It wasn’t an easy trip. I felt dejected at the reminder of foods that I love but cannot bring myself to eat. But there were successes. I chose and bought a few foods that I have not eaten for a while.
Last week my dietitian suggested that the best way to increase the variety in my diet would be to start by having a different topping on my lunchtime toast. With this in mind I bought some hummus this morning and pushed myself to eat it at lunchtime.
In some ways that was a success, but recovery seems to involve rather a lot of steps sideways or backwards, instead of forwards. Rather than spreading the hummus on toast, I opted to have half a small bagel. I justified my choice by pointing out that it was different to my usual lunch, and therefore I was increasing variety, but the honest reason for my choice was that half a bagel is less calories than a slice of toast.
But I’m trying to think positively. A step sideways is better than no step at all.
Today I had a different lunch.
Tomorrow I will have a different dinner.