The waitress slowly approached our table to take our lunch orders. Thankfully, she started at the opposite side of the table. This gave me more time to study the menu, see that out of all the items listed, I would only eat two things, and then begin to daydream about the person I once was; one who ate french fries, chicken finger pitas, and even soup. The mere thought of consuming fried foods caused me to envision a girl who would go from skinny to fat in about three seconds, while the sodium content in soup created a picture of a pregnant teenager, appearing unhealthily bloated from water retainment.
My initial, innocent goal of eating healthy to become as fit as possible for my sophomore soccer season at Michigan State had led me down a path of obsessive compulsive behaviors with an extreme control in food intake.
“Yes, I’m ready to order. But you may want to come closer to me so you can hear me.” This was just to make sure the waitress heard clearly and understood the importance of my following order. “I will have an egg white omelette with spinach, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese. But, make sure they go VERY light on the Swiss. VERY light. Make my omelette completely dry. No oil. No butter. In fact, if you can just steam the vegetables in the omelette instead of sautéing them, that would be great. Don’t bring the hash browns. You can bring the bread. Also, completely dry. No butter or oil.” She responded, “Ok, would that be all for you? A drink?” I tried to replay my order back in my mind. I answered, “No, thank you. Water is fine. But, just to make sure, did you hear me say I want my omelette and everything in it cooked dry?” She nodded, and replied, “Yes, I got that.”
The waitress walked away from our table, and walked straight toward the computer to enter our order. “Mom, did I tell her I wanted my omelette dry?” My mom answered, “Yes, you told her.”
But, what if I forgot to tell her and my mom was just saying yes to please me? I got up to go to the bathroom. You know what, I thought to myself. Just in case the waitress did not heard me say that I want my omelette dry, I will find her, and make sure she heard me correctly.
What if she didn’t write it down, and the cook didn’t know to make the omelette dry, and my omelette came soaked in oil?
My heart started racing. Should I just go directly to the kitchen in the back to tell the cook myself not to use butter or oil on my omelette?
Meanwhile, these thoughts, which seemed rational at the time, continued to repeat in my head, and I had completely missed all conversation going on at the table. I reassured myself that I would rather be sure there was not oil or butter used to make my meal than to be involved in any dialogue.
What if I told the waitress that I wanted my meal cooked dry, but it still came with oil on it? I would know. I could see it before even tasting it. She exited the kitchen holding a tray of food. She began passing out the dishes, and placed mine directly in front of me. My worst nightmare. A dry egg-white omelette was supposed to be white; not outlined in yellow, bubbling oil with mini-pools spreading around the plate.
“Miss. Excuse me. This omelette is not dry. It is soaking in either oil or butter, both of which I asked not to be used.”
“Ma’am, it was cooked dry. That is liquid from the eggs.” I don’t know about you, but I had never seen yellow oil just appear from cooking egg-whites in a pan, I thought silently. “If you aren’t happy with it, I would be glad to have them make you a new one.”
I nodded. “Yes, that would be great. Thank you. Just tell them to make it dry- no butter and no oil.”
“I got it ma’am,” she said while sounding annoyed.
How could she possibly be annoyed? I’m the customer who asked for a dry omelette, and they obviously didn’t listen.
By the time I got my meal, everyone else at the table was finishing up. “We will wait, Erin.” In addition to getting my food remade, setting me behind the others in my company, I also had not become a fast eater. When I first started losing weight, I was told to take a drink of water between each bite, which would naturally slow down my eating. Also, the slower I ate, I was advised, the quicker I became full. And, the less food I ate, the better.
My egg white omelette was brought to me for the second time. I looked at it, and thought to myself, just incase there is any residual oil or butter on it, I will dab the omelette and my plate with my napkin. Then, I could be sure to eliminate any excess fat left behind.
Much like many anorexics, I became obsessive about making sure my waitress or waiter heard my requests and modifications correctly. I believed that any morsel of fat ingested would only result in weight gain. And, the scale better not have changed when I got home fifteen minutes later to weigh myself for the nineteenth time that day. These irrational thoughts consumed my mind. Today, sure, I make modifications and special requests to my meals. My overall goal is to eat healthy, eat my meal, and enjoy my company. My brain is no longer wired to obsess over a little butter or oil here and there. In fact, I believe oil has its health benefits.
I recognize that it was extremely painful for anyone close to me to observe such behaviors. It did not matter what anyone said; I had my rules, I followed them, and there was no convincing me otherwise. Until a person is able to recognize that the thoughts involved are irrational, the behaviors are deviant, and the obsessions are unhealthy, then an anorexic will never improve his or her overall quality of life. Thankfully, I was able to acknowledge my ways were disordered, my once bubbly personality had become stoic and apathetic, and I no longer wanted to live with such demons; I just did not know how to get out.