All these thoughts came back to me as I sat, pretending to listen to and engage with my friend, which was almost impossible. By the time they brought out the second small plate to me, my mind was so lost in the loud argument of: "will this satisfy me? How much more food are they going to bring me? When will they bring it? What if by the end, it's not enough. What if I want more? What if...what if after all this time, all this healing, all this work, I still have an eating disorder...?"
On a normal, no-particular day in August, a friend took me to SugarFish— a trendy sushi restaurant in Marina del Rey. And by trendy I mean it took 45 minutes to be seated, at lunch. By trendy, I mean the place is the size of an airplane —like a Southwest airplane. Not a Delta one. By trendy, I mean the walls are grey, with nothing hung on them, and everyone, including the homeless guy outside by the fountain, looks so chic. Finally, after chit-chatting about sunglass cases and iPhones, AND how we can solve world hunger, we were finally seated and handed menus.
I should remind you that sushi is my favorite food. I could eat it everyday and I pretty much do. Also, sushi was my go-to food when I was a binge eater. For years, I'd go to Whole Foods, Sushi Boy, Hop-Sing's Good Time Sushi (that's not a real place, but you get the idea) and buy a lot of whatever I wanted, take it home and go to town. It would have been easier on my wallet if fast food was my thing. Just saying.
I hardly looked at the menu before my friend told me I should order a dish called, "Trust Me." I assumed it meant they'd bring me a meal the chef recommended or concocted in the kitchen, which excited me, because some days, the less thought I have to put into what I want to eat or food itself, the more sane and better off I am. I ordered the "Trust Me", and a few minutes later, the waiter brought us a small plate with two pieces of sushi on it and almost immediately, I began to panic. I realized this particular meal was designed to be eaten carefully and slowly, meant to be enjoyed with focus and appreciation, and intended to give me, and recovering binge eaters everywhere, a complete nervous breakdown.
I'm not a slow eater. Never have been. And in my line of work, the first thing I ask my client is: Are you a slow eater? Fast eater? Moderate eater? The idea being to bring the body back to homeostasis and free from a stress response, caused by eating too fast, judging the food you're eating, etc. I'd say this has been the hardest part of ED recovery, for me; eating slowly, with pleasure and awareness of all the things in and around me. For so many years, my story had been I am not to be trusted with or around food. I don't trust my body to digest food or burn it off without a pill or supplement of some kind This food must be hidden from me. And If I am to eat this food, I am to hide as I eat it.
The good news is I've gotten so much better about speaking up in my life. I told my friend I couldn't focus on our conversation. I told her this is a new and nerve-wracking experience for me and I need to talk about that instead of anything else. She was happy to do this. I told her how anxious I felt, not knowing when my next bite would come, and how many bites there would be. I told her I was afraid that after they brought the last piece of sushi, I'd want more. So much more. All to which she gently replied, you CAN have more.
And I remembered she was right. There's always more. There's always enough. I spend my career reminding clients, friends and strangers at dinner parties that there is plenty. That it's normal to eat a meal served by somebody else and realize that it isn't enough for you. But the trick is to thoroughly enjoy what has been provided, first. The key is to be able to engage with your surroundings with ease, as food is one part of the eating experience. The point is to slow down. I still work on this everyday.
The minute I think to myself Wow, Erica Jacobs! You are officially cured and recovered in your relationship with food and body. Well done. You're the brightest, most evolved human being in your field, the Universe says, Don't get cocky. And it sends me to places like SugarFish to remind me that I, as an eater, am a work in progress. That my relationship with food is always evolving. That above all else, I am to be trusted with food. That my hunger is to be trusted and honored. That my body knows what it's doing and I am to let it do its job.
Trust is a very big word, built in very small moments. Trust is built each time we sit down to a meal. Trust is manifested when we allow others to feed us. And trust is nurtured when we keep showing up to the table, ready to take slow, present and thoroughly enjoyable bites. This can happen at Chick-fil-a, it can happen at your kitchen table and obviously, it can happen at the trendiest sushi restaurant on a normal, no-particular day in August. Trust me.