“What do you want to eat?” the nutritionist asked me, and I began to panic before I even considered.
I try not to consider what I really want to eat. Ever. Because considering means choices and rules and fears and often a binge, because I want it all right now and I can’t have it.
Being asked what I want to eat is, for me, like being first in line at the buffet: I have no idea how to handle it, and I want to see what someone else does first. (When confronted with a restaurant menu, I try to choose the first healthiest option that leaps out at me and close the menu pronto. Woe to the person who asks me: “Oh, but wouldn’t you rather have X?”)
But yesterday I returned to the nutritionist after having been away for nearly a month. Two weeks in Africa, where I was so unbelievably fine you’d have thought I was normal. A plateful of food, three times a day, end of story. (And a total of nearly 60 days without a binge.) And then, upon returning to the US, two weeks of bingeing unlike any I’ve seen in years, if ever.
Usually I like getting back to my routines, but back at home, none of the foods I typically eat tasted good. Plus, there wasn’t much routine: Less than 48 hours after I landed in New York, I went to Chicago for a wedding. I didn’t feel very well, which bizarrely can be a binge trigger. And I did: At the rehearsal dinner, at the wedding, at the brunch on the Sunday. I got so ill (cold/flu) on the Sunday night I feared I wouldn’t make it home and lay around desperately feverish and stuffed up on the Monday. Tuesday I was again ill, but I binged anyway. Wednesday OK, Thursday a ball (where the week’s four days of bingeing meant the dress I wanted to wear didn’t fit), where I binged again.
Friday OK, Saturday overate (but didn’t binge), Sunday a bachelorette party that included a trip to an artisanal chocolate shop in Brooklyn. (Do you even need me to tell you what happened?) Monday to Thursday I was OK – eating more than I needed, but not bingeing. Friday I went on a (terrible) date (more of which, another time) and binged afterward. Saturday’s eating not stellar; Sunday a binge.
I had wanted to avoid the nutritionist until I could scrape more than a few non-binge days together. That might have worked if I didn’t have a wedding this weekend and then a trip to Los Angeles, among other things. Suddenly I realized that if I didn’t go in and see her this week, I could be in binge free-fall until I got back from LA.
I didn’t want to eat the things she’s told me to eat. And yet I wanted her to tell me what to eat. I wanted a whole new eating plan, so I could feel hopeful, the way I always used to at the start of any diet.
And so I went to see her, hiding out in my Sweaty Betty tracksuit because I’m afraid to put any of my jeans on.
“Now is not the time to get creative,” she said. I knew it. And in a lot of ways, I knew she was right.
“But I just can’t face eating some of these things anymore,” I said. “Maybe I could just have one more lunch option?”
“What do you want to eat?” she said gently.
My brain went blank and fuzzy, live a TV screen when there’s no signal. Then something surfaced.
I told her I kept remembering a lunch of steamed eggs with spinach with delicious bread (with a lot of olive oil) I had in March at Buvette, a French restaurant near me.
“Eggs are good. Filling. How do you want to eat them?”
I had a vision of a sandwich involving mashed hardboiled eggs. She suggested I add avocado and arugula.
Last night I shopped for the ingredients, and I felt the frisson of excitement: Something new. Something that just might fix me.
I knew it wouldn’t, but it tasted good anyway.