Eating in public when I was anorexic was something I only did when I really, really had to. The reason I struggled with eating in front of people? Well, it was because I thought that everyone in the vicinity would think that I was greedy and fat. I honestly thought that every person in the restaurant or on the street would stop what they were doing to look at what I was putting in my mouth, and then comment about how disgusting and massively overweight I was. This was obviously not the case. People couldn’t care less about what I was or wasn’t consuming.
When I was in hospital, I ate all of my meals in my bedroom. Even when I had gained enough weight to be released off bedrest, I was still allowed to eat in my room rather than join the other patients in the dining room, thankfully. I think I probably would have died in that place if I’d been told to sit with others. I simply wouldn’t have eaten.
All of my meals and snacks were supervised by a nurse, so that they could be sure that I was eating and not hiding my food. The majority of the nurses would be kind and turn most of their attention towards the TV, knowing how difficult it was for me to eat while being looked at. I had a TV in my room not only to pass the time, but to be used as a distraction while I ate. Well, that’s what it was supposed to do. But I rarely paid any attention to what was happening on the screen. My interest was reserved for my food, and how I was going to avoid eating it all. There were some nurses who would (after I’d been caught hiding food) lean on my bed, where I sat to have my meals, and stare at me while I ate. There were two who I think got some kind of perverse joy out of doing this. Most of the other nurses who supervised me were more laid back, and didn’t make me feel so anxious. Then we had contract workers who would just be in for a few days. They were always sweet and polite, but they were the easiest to fool, so I often took advantage.
Once I was out of hospital, my parents endured nightmarish situations whenever we went out to eat, or whenever they wanted me to eat with the family. There were a number of occasions when I started to weep at the table, so convinced was I that every single person in the place thought I was just a fat mess, gobbling up everything in sight.
It took a lot of practice before I was able to eat in front of my family, or anyone else for that matter, without worrying what they thought about me. Thankfully though I have an astonishingly supportive family, and for the past few Christmases we’ve been able to sit down and share a normal family meal. As an anorexic to do this was impossible. Nowadays I’ll eat anything in front of anyone, and not give a thought as to what they might think about me. I have my freedom with food and it’s truly the most wonderful thing.