Hey, Wait, I Thought You Said Things Would be Perfect When I Got "Normal"!

The "snack table" at work a couple of weeks ago.

First let me say, I am in no way looking a recovery horse in the mouth. I am so grateful to be recovered from binge eating disorder and am still amazed by what it is to live a life that’s not dictated by food. That said, I was thinking a couple of days ago that being normal about food isn’t always smiles and rainbows.

For one thing, you have to deal with choice. On a daily basis—actually multiple times a day. Because everything’s allowed, and nothing is “bad,” you actually have to make decisions about what you’re going to put in your mouth. When I was actively bingeing, I was out of control and never felt like I had a choice. I was being driven by the desperation and emotional need inside me and simply had to give it what it wanted, and as much as it wanted.

Then, farther along in my recovery when I started going to a support group that recommended having a “food plan” I had another force governing me. Rules that—although they were much more mentally healthy for me than the way I had lived before—were still not quite normal. (Did anyone see Huge last week? The camp director had this line where she said, “I don’t eat in motor vehicles,” and it reminded me of myself in those days.) Like, I had a rule that I didn’t eat free food at work. It made things easier, because I didn’t have to wonder, “Is this emotional eating if I have a cupcake at So-and-So’s birthday party? Is it real hunger that’s making me grab a handful of these chips?” I just didn’t ever eat any of it. I also avoided most trigger foods, so there were a lot of things I didn’t eat: Crackers, cookies, chocolate candy, donuts, fried stuff. The rules I had were very helpful to me at the time, but they were pretty black and white.

It was like the pendulum swung from one end which was absolute anarchy and primal need to the other, which was too much control.

Now, I really feel like I am a normal eater. I am not afraid of any food, nothing is off limits, I tune in to see what my body needs, then try to give it to myself. But other than that, I pretty much don’t have any rules. The freedom is sort of miraculous. But at the same time, I now have to deal with things—like normal body changes, weight fluctuations, and making decisions about nutrition—that I’ve never had to before.

I was talking with some coworkers the other day about how crazy our snacks table is in the office. How it’s really, truly, insane how many edibles are just lying around here, and how easy it is to just mindlessly grab a taste of this or handful of that. We were all kind of laughing about how everyone gains weight when they first start working here and I realized how…normal and mundane it all was. It struck me how candy dishes and mindless eating are something that 100 percent normal eaters deal with, and that I was truly one of them.

I will gladly take these kinds of “difficulties” over the ones I had before. But, just like you learn in recovery that being thin doesn’t make everything perfect, I’m realizing that being a normal eater doesn’t make everything—or me—perfect either. Oh, life lessons.

Have you learned any life lessons lately? About food, yourself, black and white thinking, perfectionism? Please share! xo…Sunny

4 Responses to Hey, Wait, I Thought You Said Things Would be Perfect When I Got "Normal"!

  1. Perfection is a myth. There is no such thing. Even if someone reaches a perfect from their own ideal, someone else will see flaw in it. Everyone has a different idea of what perfect is, so trying to achieve an overall level of perfection is impossible.

  2. As always, excellent post, Sunny! Very thought-provoking.

    When I healed my relationship with food and my body, I just assumed that now I’d officially be perfect. What I mean by that is that I figured that once I started having a healthy body image, I’d never “feel fat” again or I wouldn’t revert, sometimes, to my negative thinking of years ago.

    So I basically transferred my perfectionism from wanting to follow a diet perfectly and wanting to have a perfect body to being the model of positive body image. I also struggled with wanting to be perfect, because I felt like I had to set a good example for readers.

    Once I realized what I was doing, and wrote a post about my own struggles, I started catching myself whenever these perfectionistic tendencies would strike.

    The key with food, your body, whatever… is flexibility. That’s what normal eating is (have you read Ellyn Satter’s definition of normal eating? She emphasizes flexibility). That’s what a positive body image is, too. We all struggle from time to time, and it’s important to be flexible and kind to ourselves at every step.

  3. Carly says:

    I’ve learned that it’s okay to let myself have some candy every once in awhile, and I can trust myself not to eat the whole box of cookies. I now know that I can have just one or two and then put them away. Also, if I happen to go a little overboard on birthday cake or ice cream every once in awhile, it’s okay! Normal eaters do indulge sometimes, so it’s nothing to beat myself up over. The key for me has been trusting myself and finding a balance. And if I happen to let the junk food win once in awhile, the world won’t come to an end, and I’ll get right back to healthy and normal eating habits :)

  4. […] it would be all those years ago when I first started wishing for it. It’s really…imperfect, and normal and sometimes messy, just like life. But guess what? The guilt is gone, and so is the shame, and the obsession. More […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.