Picky eaters

We’ve been binge-watching Dark and Love Island in a little cabin up north.

Normally I like to know every detail of where I’m going before I leave, but lately I’ve went through a surprise phase, where I am always moaning about not being surprised.

I was feeling a bit fed up of knowing everything that’s going to happen, and feeling like I was suffocating myself with my need to be involved in everything. As much as I like being involved, sometimes the weight is immense and I want someone to take over.

The older I get, the more aware I am of all the conditions I’ve been putting on things. Like invisible rules I’ve made up and need to stick to, for even more invisible reasons.

Like food. I had so many weird conditions about food. It took me a while to realise eating disorders can extend past wanting to eat too much or not wanting to eat at all.

I don’t want to detail the things that freak me out about food but the people in McDonald’s probably rue the day I was born. 

To this day I’ve never eaten a sandwich made by unknown hands and I don’t feel I could ever eat soup made by anyone who isn’t my mum. It’s from a tin, but I can still tell if someone else made it. Believe me I just can.

I’ve never had a hot drink either and it baffles me why anyone would want to. It’s soup or juice, the line is clear and I feel like there is no in-between.

Going out for food with other people makes me nervous. The thought of eating pasta made by someone I don’t know, or even someone I know, feels inconceivable to me. What the hell is in there?  

Ordering chicken in a restaurant turns into an archaeological dig for veins and other chicken-y structures that might ruin my life if I bite down on them. Any form of minced meat is particularly stressful.

And going to someone’s house for dinner! Mums take an instant disliking to you if you don’t want to eat their dinner and I can’t blame them. 

Sometimes I feel like I’m on the other side too, and I want myself to just eat so there isn’t a fuss, but there’s such a big disconnect between my brain and my body in those moments. It doesn’t matter to my mouth how hungry my stomach is, or how much I want to please someone else.

People think eating disorders are about attention when really they’re about control. They’re like an abusive stance your brain takes against your body when you’re in a situation you have no control over.

When I was a few years old, I hated being shipped between my mum’s house and my dad’s house every two weeks. Two weeks is a looong time when you’re a kid, and they lived at opposite ends of town.

When I was younger nobody had a mobile phone or a laptop, so you entered the neighbourhood social scene just by walking out of your front door.

I remember times where I was playing, went home for dinner, and came back to whole new group dynamic or entirely new friends, so two weeks was long enough to feel like you had returned from jail and the world had moved on without you.

The only thing I could take control of was my body, making little rules that turned into steely habits. Becoming secretive and ritualistic with things, growing up abiding by X and Y.

Even after I grew up and realised X and Y were weird, it was easier said than done to just drop them. And I wish people had been kinder to me and asked me what I couldn’t say no to in my life that made me look for other unnecessary places to say no.

Especially because I didn’t have the tools to explain why I felt that way. I wouldn’t for another two decades and I had to put up with a lot of screaming, threatening, crying, bargaining, ignoring and pleading from well-meaning adults trying their best in the mean time.

I always wished as a child that someone would just let me help make my food. I wanted to feel a part of a basic decision that affected me.

My boyfriend works as a chef but he never pushes me or becomes frustrated with me, which helped me to stop associating the dinner table with dread and awkwardness. He makes it fun.

Liking things because I wanted to (and not because someone else ordered me to) helped me to feel more in control. And acknowledging why I ever started being picky made me see it as less of an undesirable personality trait and more of a coping mechanism that lingered too long.

I don’t know why I’m sharing this, it’s a slow day in my brain. I’m lying in the big pillow and duvet superbed we’ve made thinking about what it’d be like to have a kid who’s a picky eater… Sack that.

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