Just two months into my illness, I developed a need to leave food. Eating everything on my plate was, according to the anorexic witch in my head, a death wish. I started leaving a few mouthfuls at first, but gradually the amount I was leaving behind mounted. Before long, I was leaving at least half of everything that was supposed to be consumed.
I remember taking Ryvitas to school, sandwiched together with a thin smear of Light Sandwich Spread. I would eat half of my astoundingly dry meal, then discreetly toss the rest into the bin. I’d do the same with my ‘dessert’ too, being extremely careful not to go a bite over halfway with my apple. I would study my food before starting to eat. I needed to know exactly where the cut off point was, so that I didn’t eat to excess.
The routine continued when I was admitted into hospital. I would eat half of my branflakes, half of my Muller Rice, half of my omelet. If I could get away with eating less than half I always would. I would hide food regularly. When I was done eating, I would push away the bedrest table with my meal or snack on, and sit back on my bed, signifying that I was done. A supervisory nurse would stay with me and the food for half an hour to an hour, to see if I would change my mind and try to eat more. It was a long time before I did so.
I used to have Ensure Plus – a meal replacement shake – at snack time. It would come in a little cardboard carton which I would pierce with a straw. As I was sipping, I would carefully feel the carton to know exactly when I’d hit the mid-way point.
It took many months of therapy and persistent nurses to move me on from my ritual of eating half. When I eventually started to adapt my behaviour, I would burst into tears after just one more mouthful than I was used to. The pressure was unreal. I was absolutely convinced that I would gain colossal amounts of weight just by taking in a few extra calories. When I left hospital, I was still unsure about eating everything on my plate, and it took months more therapy and intensive soul searching before I could leave a plate clean.
I sometimes pause, look at where I am today and give myself a cheer. Today I can have a pizza to myself and eat it all. I can have a sandwich and not feel compelled to leave chunks of it. I can eat a piece of cake and not throw a mouthful of it away. I have complete freedom with food nowadays. I enjoy food too much to leave parts of it behind.