I. The Usual
Her cravings had not subsided as quickly as promised. She was left to grapple with them every afternoon, usually around 3pm or 4, after she had already worked an eight hour day and exercised and attempted to write something. In an exhausted state, her head would begin to think of all it would be nice to have at the moment.
The easiest, laziest option was to do something her mother would never do: nap it off. She would grab her sleeping bag that she had climbed into for 3000 miles, a bag that lost some of its fluff but still felt like the most enveloping cocoon. She would lay it out on the mustard yellow, soft canvas couch, crawl into it, and turn on the television in hopes it would lull her to sleep. She had not watched television for much of her twenties. However, her landlords included 300 channels as part of her rent, so she valued its medicinal use as a sleep aid.
She would usually wake up around 5, and try to stay busy. She tended to clean the house every night, just to keep herself occupied and not eating junk. Her boyfriend noticed and commented on a single dirty dish in the sink, or the sheets twisted on the bed, so she was motivated to clean to please him. She would prepare that night’s dinner, and cook oatmeal for tomorrow’s breakfast, and pack tomorrow’s lunch in her compartmentalized Tupperware. She would eat dinner in the company of her pet goldfish Chamberlain while watching the CBS evening news.
She tried not to have too much down time while she waited for her boyfriend to come home at 830 or 9 or 930. Often, she would climb into bed before he arrived, especially if she had to wake up earlier than 4am for work. It felt like torture to sit at the table, and watch him eat a subway sandwich, or chicken nuggets, or chips, or any number of things.
Often she would still come out of the bedroom, adjacent to the kitchen and dining area, and hug him and massage her shoulders a little before he showered and ate. That was the moment she waited for all afternoon, for him to see her in her kimono-turned-bathrobe, and tell her how great she looked. He had loved her at 200 pounds, he had wanted her at first sight, and she knew he would love her at whatever weight she turned out to be.
She was not eating all the vegetables and lean proteins and cutting refined sugar for him of course. She kept telling herself that it was for herself. Yet it felt so hard when she was alone and struggling to resist the impulses that she followed for 28 years. As terrible as it sounds for a woman who was given Our Bodies, Ourselves as a child, she wanted to look attractive enough that he forgot about the rest of his day and just wanted to cuddle with her as soon as possible.
II. The Atypical
She had felt weak and tired at work all morning. It did not help that she had been so worried that she would mess up the time change and show up late that she accidentally arrived an hour early.
In the very physical produce business, she did not have time to feel weak. She was expected to rotate a dozen fifty pound boxes of bananas and shove them under the table, and every other day she could, every other day she relished the banana box workout. She loved having a job where she worked up a sweat. She knew that she could not play that “oh, I don’t think I had enough calories yesterday” card, and she did not want to. Always self-driven to be more productive, she never wanted to feel slow, never wanted her supervisors to comment on her speed.
In fact, she knew she had not eaten enough the day before. She had skipped dinner, something her parents would never do or understand, but she wanted the scale to budge. Sure enough, it did that morning, but her oatmeal could not compensate for the calorie deficit from the day before.
In lieu of the steak and veggies she had packed, she bought a sandwich. She bought her favorite from the store, a chicken-pesto-roasted red pepper affair that was the best option. That gave her a little more energy, but by the end of her shift, she had set her sights on something even more delectable: hot cross buns.
Earlier in her life, she must have been served hot cross buns around Easter but she did not remember. She never noticed them until the first spring she worked at the grocery store, and she had started a tradition of buying them once a year ever since. Hot cross buns are sweet rolls with raisins and candied fruit baked in the dough, and each bun is frosted with a cross.
She decided to buy some. She expected to be given a hard time from the cashiers and service leaders who had been selling her large quantities of vegetables in recent weeks and always encouraged her and told her she looked great. With a smile in her voice, she simply acknowledged that she was indulging in something other than produce and left for the day.
She inhaled the hot cross buns on the way home. When resisting sweets, she always told herself that they never could never taste as good as she imagined, but these tasted better. She did not regret it. She had waited to splurge on something truly worth the calories, worth the one step back after making two steps forward, and she found that item.
The binge eater in her swung by the gas station and bought a bag of chips and two Cadbury eggs to chase the hot cross buns. In all the elegance of Somes Sound, she played out this horrific episode of fat-girl-gone-wild. In total, she ate almost 4000 calories, far less than the damage that she could have done.
She still took her nap, like any other day. In addition to the nap, she did something on this most indulgent day that she would do on any typical eating day. She logged onto the my fitness pal app, and she logged her food, all of it. Binges had always been her stumbling block from being 100% honest with her food journal, from being able to continue on a long streak with her food journal. Here she was, on a 18 day streak of honesty with herself about the good, the bad, and the ugly.
She did not have to be honest with anyone except herself about her food, she could keep every binge to herself. However, several people had approached her, and told her that she inspired them, and she did not want them to think she was perfect. She had tried on perfection, and it always looked funny on her, she always felt like she was holding her breath and she could not possibly hold her breath forever.
She found it easier, more sustainable to say, “Don’t you understand this is progress? For me, it is progress for it to only happen every couple of weeks, it is progress it write it all down and be accountable.”
Tomorrow she would go back to the usual. She would return to her nightly routine, and she would keep busy, and she would clean her shower doors, and fold laundry, and scrub the stovetop. Yet she owned today, she owned that ugliness. She created and owned that particular episode of fat-girl-gone-wild. She could have let it happen quietly, but she thought it would be the most useful if it did not.