You Must Be Hungry

A food critic grapples with her daughter's eating disorders.

An Adult Version of Mommy and Me

The young woman recovering from eating disorders escapes her safety zone

How do you measure progress against eating disorders? Sometimes, it’s in miles. The restaurant critic and the recovering anorexic took a road trip, reported in my previous post, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/you-must-be-hungry/201301/the... . Here is Lisa’s version:

 

I finally took a vacation. Not a fancy "I am getting away on a plane to some far-off destination" vacation, but a three-hour drive. It had been over a year since I'd traveled out of the Bay Area. Here was a two-week winter break from work (the perks of being a teacher). Was it possible to have a relaxing getaway -- with my mom?

Risky. Screaming, door-slamming fights, anyone? But I knew I’d regret not taking the opportunity, so we ventured to San Luis Obispo on our adult-size “Mommy and Me” road trip.

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Taking a trip just the two of us has not been the most plausible activity over the past decade and some years, given my wavering battle with eating disorders. In the depths of my disease, we barely attempted vacations. The thought of possible blowouts -- most likely over food --overshadowed the hopes that a getaway may have been a step towards recovery.

 

Going out to eat in my home base proved torturous enough. Taking it on the road? Be serious. In my anxiety-ridden mind, not only did traveling mean dining out and giving up control over food preparation, but also letting go of my stringent exercise regimen.

 

“Getting away” meant leaving my safety zone, from the gym to my refrigerator to the restaurants I already know. I approached our Mommy and Me vacation with some admitted trepidation, worrying about how well we'd get along – starting with being in a car for hours, just the two of us. However, as we set out on a nice, sunny afternoon, I eased up and looked forward to our time away. The hillsides were beautiful! Furthermore, we were able to delve into a meaningful conversation about both of our lives, far away from eating disorders. I shared self-discoveries--recent and from times past--and especially discussed my desire to surround myself with positive people, nurturing meaningful friendships, growing.

 

The car was one hurdle, but what about meals? I could have stayed in my safety zone and carefully scanned every menu posted at every restaurant for applicable options (low calorie, low-fat and most often low-satisfaction rate). Or I could find what genuinely appealed to me, given that it was gluten-free, as I absolutely have to stick to that.

 

On our first night, we found a highly recommended restaurant I remembered from visiting friends in San Luis Obispo during college, then well out of my price range. As we were seated, our hostess informed us that January in SLO was restaurant month, featuring 3-course menus and wine pairings for a very reasonable price. Mom and I both opted for this, each choosing different options for our courses. I challenged myself to get what first jumped out at me on the menu, regardless of how indulgent or "un-safe” – in this case, chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. Why not gild the lily every now and then? I did not necessarily indulge to this extent at every meal, but still fared highly successful and pleasantly satisfied, while enjoying the experience of dining out with Mom.

 

The following night, as we laughed over our shared plates of salumi trio, fresh scallops over wasabi puree and a bacon lettuce and tomato salad, the couple sitting next to us had apparently been observing in awe and asked how we get along so well. I smiled, then pointed to my glass of locally produced Grenache Blanc and said, "Wine helps." Another pleasure of our trip was to discover the area’s vineyards, in moderation.

 

Our trip provided a much-needed reprieve from hard work, and it rekindled the mother-daughter bond that gets frayed from the general day-to-day interactions. On the drive back, again, conversation never sank into unfortunate circumstances from the past. I've been ready to move on from my eating disorders and I believe our trip highlighted that I'm on the right path.

 

Sheila Himmel is an award-winning food journalist. She and her daughter, Lisa, wrote Hungry: A Mother and Daughter Battle Anorexia.

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