As my phone lights up, I realize that it must be my therapist's secretary. Instantly, I am annoyed.
With her slight Southern accent, mall bangs, constant smile, and the plastic dusty pink flowers dangling about her desk, my therapist's secretary is a hammy Christian chain email incarnate and, frankly, all too familiar. It's as if a clone of mother acts as gatekeeper to my therapy sessions. Strangely circular, given that my mother is the root of a lot of what I talk about in therapy.
Soon thereafter, I am nestling down into my therapist's saggy green couch. I am excited. Despite the constant battle over boundaries with her all-too-chatty secretary, I respect my therapist a lot.
We have a constructive dynamic. She offers me honest feedback, even insight.
"You look tired," therapist says. That's oddly insensitive of her. I brush this unwelcome comment off the best I can. She continues to focus on my looks. I snap back something about how my period is killing me. That should shut her up about it.
Instead, she presses deeper still into awkward territory. She advises I consume more protein around that time of the month. Duh, I know that. Paddling from Atkins to veganism — and seemingly not grasping their direct opposition to one another — she confesses to having watched Forks over Knives over the weekend.
"You're vegan, right?" So that's what this is about.
"Um, yeah." GREAT.
She's vainly trying to recall the phrase "visceral fat."
Now, she's literally miming "apple-shaped" with her arms.
I decline to offer any assistance aiding this alter ego of hers to express her stupid thoughts. I am feeling deeply insulted.
First off, I clearly know much more about nutrition than her. I owe much of this knowledge to a severe eating disorder I had. My therapist knows about my past. Second, I'm an active supporter of the body positive movement. She knows this as well.
What is she thinking?
I am sitting, a facial expression that can only read "murderous rage" creeping over my face, waiting for her to tire herself out. I throw a few verbal swings.
"You know, almost every diet takes a valid medical concept, like healthy fats, high protein, gluten free...and abuses it as a weight loss gimmick."
"Juice fasts! Why not a SODA-only diet? It's all the same to your blood sugar!"
But she must have packed up on slow-release carbs for breakfast, because she is not slowing down.
"What have you eaten today?" my therapist queries, undeterred. Not the response I was hoping for.
I gulp down my rage and effortlessly report. I am withholding some information (e.g., the nuts didn't have BHT on them) just in case I hadn't already given away the fact that I still give myself extra points for eating "healthy."
Maybe she'll bring this up, I hope. Maybe she knows that, despite having a relatively good diet by society's standards, my diet DOES in fact display self-monitoring behaviors. Maybe she's going to push the question: Are you REALLY recovered from your eating disorder?
"Not bad!" she says, impressed. "I think those might all be whole foods! Do you know what WHOLE FOODS are?"
Inside, I am thrashing. Wait! Am I paying her to run diets by me? Does a history with eating disorders make me her best nutritional resource?!
I summon my trusty mental health tool box. I imagine pulling out my therapist's very own assertiveness ranking scale. I try to imagine a "4": I buy a much-coveted veggie spiralizer. I weave strands of zucchini pasta together into a noose. I hang myself in her office with it, to clarify how I feel about this discussion.
Would she get the reference to the "raw food enzymes" fad? No, probably not.
I leave defeated. Then I go to work. Clearly, we still have more work to do with the assertiveness scale.
At work, a colleague who normally conceals her arms with a cardigan is wearing cropped sleeves. Her arms glow like moonstone. I smile, refreshed by this improvement. She's pushing herself to view her body positively.
An aware coworker of ours wrecks these good vibes as we're closing up shop. Tossing her purse onto her shoulder, she barks at her vibrating phone, "I'm at work! No, I have not recorded my dinner yet!"
I am pretending this didn't happen. She is not going to let me.
"I'm using MyFitnessPal. It's my third try." She pivots towards me.
It's clear that as 'VEGAN' girl, she expects me to go Jillian Michaels on her about discipline around food.
I am sick of people trying to leverage my "cruelty-free" philosophy as means of perpetuating shame today.
I reply, "Oh, yeah, I had a coworker at my other job who went CRAZY with that app. I won't ever forget her trying to figure out how many calories she burnt playing ping-pong!" I laugh scornfully. I hope this means she's never going to talk to me about this again.
I am crammed in same office as MyFitnessPal Girl, the Cardigan Lady, and another colleague who's lost 100 pounds recently. I've noted Weight-Loss Woman's awkwardly sexual photos on her computer and in her lunch box, planted to reinforce some "After" epilogue that doubtless plays over and over in her mind.
In my car now, I'm ruminating on all this toxicity. All their food-tracking, all their motivational photos...all the women around me act like THEY have eating disorders.
The revelation strikes me: I'm different. I've changed. I'm NOT one of the sick ones anymore. Sure, I select healthy foods. But I don't compulsively limit, track, or compensate for what I eat. I don't eat to numb emotions. I didn't get triggered by all the neurotic food and weight-related talk today. I might avoid say, pizza, because I am afraid of relapsing, but if I'm not relapsing then aren't I recovered?
I have beaten my eating disorder! I never thought I would, but I have. I did it. But it seems to have made me more of an anomaly rather than normal as I had once hoped.