I looked at my meal this morning
It was simultaneously
Too much, and not enough
Just like me
When I woke up this morning
Asking myself: am I hungry?
Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know…
I’m full and yet, empty
My mind plays dirty tricks, you see
It says: what does the scale read?
Is the number good enough
For this morning’s feed?
But that’s irrelevant, I know
To eat by earth’s gravity
And not by signals I ignore
From my poor abused body
Yet hunger, how do I honour you?
For years, you’ve frightened me
To feel you is unfeminine
So says our society
To want, to need, is weakness
A shame one must conceal
To yearn, to crave, is wanton
For women, to reveal
My hunger is enormous and
It’s something I can feel
But I can’t go and seize the day
Without a morning meal…
So quiet the toxic voices
That say “no, you cannot”
They’re wrong, because you CAN
Don’t listen to that rot
You can, you should, you will
No fear, just be yourself
You’ll shine like the constellations
When you regain your health
Know that you’re worthy of love
Just the way you are
Embrace the hunger, chase your dreams
Sweet soul, you are a STAR.
Breakfast is one of those meals where most people tend to take less seriously, and for those recovering from an eating disorder, it can be particularly hard. The Ninja Turtle skipped breakfast for many years, and during recovery, spent six months making it a habit.
One of the biggest problems and fears for sufferers is “why eat when I’m not even feeling hungry anyway? I’m going to have to restrict later during the day when I actually feel hungry, so shouldn’t I just save my breakfast calories for later?”
No. Oftentimes we don’t have an appetite when we awake, that’s true. And most healthy people can afford to skip their morning meals without dire consequences. But when one is recovering from an eating disorder, every meal is an opportunity. Food is medicine, and mealtimes are training sessions – a chance to be less scared of food, a chance to re-learn what we like and do not like, a chance to nourish our broken bodies correctly, deliciously, happily without anxiety or guilt.
Another concern during recovery is “if I start eating when I’m not even hungry, when do I know when to stop eating?”
This is another opportunity to learn. The Ninja Turtle really struggled with hunger and satiety cues, and she still does now, but it only came with a lot of practice and patience and courage to dare to eat. You cannot know what it feels like to be full if you keep denying it when you feel hungry. Only when you know the two extremes will you slowly learn the varying degrees of in-between.
You’ve been restricting and running on “empty” for so long (it doesn’t matter what weight/BMI you are, as long as you are undereating to your individual physical needs, that is restriction) that your brain and body needs a few, if not many opportunities to recognise it’s-OK-there’s-enough-to-eat-so-eat-to-your-heart’s-content which is for the Ninja Turtle, “full to bursting”. But that’s OK. Eventually it all calms down. The brain and the body are starting to recognise there is no need to eat like one must prepare for a famine, because the mental and physical restrictions are removed.
So one day, maybe breakfast can be pushed off to become brunch (preferably with lots of champagne, eggs and avocado toast, waffles and ice cream) or a simple cup of black coffee. But not yet. Not when one still needs to replenish, rebuild and re-learn.
Eat your breakfast, fellow warriors. Some days you will want it, some days you will not. Some days you will enjoy it, some days you want to fling the darn thing at the wall on the other side of the room. Some days you’ll be awake two hours before it, looking forward to the orange juice, bacon and jam on toast, some days you will wish all the omelettes and oatmeal on earth could just vanish forever.
And one day you will wake up thinking about poetry, fashion, travel, politics, animals, languages, archaeology, volunteering, [insert what you like here] instead, and whatever you’re served up for breakfast becomes irrelevant, and then you realise… this is what it means to be free.
N.B This was a photo taken in January 2011, right back the the “beginning” so to speak, when GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle first started officially dating. This was a trip to Saigon in Vietnam, back in a place and time when the Turtle could eat a morning meal without qualms and just get on with the rest of her day (which was exploring Vietnam’s war history in the Cu Chi tunnels).