As I suspected, this eating again thing is complicated. For nearly a year, the solution to needing calories has been to add a packet of powder to some water, mix and drink. Elapsed time: 45-90 seconds. Now I’m back to real life. How do people do this? Meal after meal! Decide on the food. Obtain the food. Prepare the food. Clean up the food. Do it again a few hours later. Sometimes there’s more than one kind of food to deal with in the same meal! Who came up with this system, anyway? Feeding myself, like many things having to do with healthful routines, is something I have never done very well, and I know I’ll need to work hard at it.
Grocery shopping is weird now that I am choosing food for myself again, and I feel the drag of old baggage as I walk down those aisles. Like many people with eating issues, my history is littered with countless attempts at eating and behaving more healthfully: endless diets, food plans and lifestyle “changes” that petered out quickly or slowly. Endless occasions of hope and determination; endless repetitions of “this time will be different.”
The foods I am currently buying for myself are fairly simple and natural, so they unfortunately remind me of these past cycles. I used to buy lots of such foods when I was trying to be “good” and shun them almost completely when I was being “bad.” (I used to joke that I avoided anything that had ever committed photosynthesis.) That was how it went, and it means that many great foods I need to nourish my body have been tagged in my mind as moralistic, ascetic, and worst of all: temporary.
Of course, these feelings aren’t unique to food issues. What addict hasn’t embarked on countless quests for recovery? For that matter, what human being hasn’t had repeated attempts at some kind of self-improvement?
I used to experience the start of a quest for change as an almost holy thing. It felt like joining a sacred order, dedicating myself to something better. I believed I was going to be better by doing this. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, if it weren’t for what comes with it: this sort of spiritual inflation is paired with an inevitable deflation.
For me, assigning this kind of elevated meaning to a behavior only makes it more other, and if it’s other that means there must be a me that will return at some point. Thinking this way meant that feeding my body well, or moving it, or staying away from drugs, or whatever reform I was doing, never had a chance to start feeling like natural behavior for me. It was always about being good.
I’m trying to change these attitudes, but I’d be lying if I said fears do not come up. As my clean time mounted up, or as the weight came off, the old voices would try to tell me that this couldn’t possibly last. Now, as I shop for food or handle any other task responsibly, the old tapes try to tell me the same thing.
You know those convenient bags of baby carrots some stores have? I’d always get those at the beginning of a new scheme, and I regret to say they often went unfinished. We started referring to them as the Carrots of Good Intentions, or COGIs (pronounced KOH-jees) for short. So when we were at the store today and I picked up a bag of COGIs, I had to talk back to those voices. I had to stand there in the produce section and present a case for buying these little orange symbols of old failures.
Well, I did bring home the COGIs (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop calling them that, though, because it just sounds right.) I bought them because the past is not the future. I bought them because working the steps has shown me some real evidence of internal change, and given me some real hope that I don’t have to repeat the old pattern. I bought them because I’m not trying to be good anymore.
But do you want to know the coolest reason I bought them?
I bought them because the bag I bought last week is empty.