Topic Tuesday: Small Victories

“Bread + Butter” (By: Anonymous)

All I wanted to do was sleep. I didn’t have the energy or desire to do anything else. It was 6:00 at night, so I knew that if I went to bed that early that I wouldn’t be able to sleep through the night. I was ready for the day to be over and for my mind to rest for a few hours.

I was pretty worn out from my therapy session earlier that day. The therapy went as well as it usually did…I cried, listened, processed, cried some more, and walked out with more knowledge, wisdom, and hope stored away in my tool box than when I walked it. Nonetheless, it was still draining.

As I mindlessly watched raindrops trickle down the window in my living room, my mind wandered to the one thing I wanted to avoid that night: Dinner

Therapy did go well, it really did. But it didn’t make the idea of cooking dinner any more appealing to me.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t hungry; I felt the hunger pangs in my side. I heard my stomach growling as my family started heating up left-overs on the stove.

That night dinner was an “on our own” kinda night. My family would have made me any meal that I requested at that point in my recovery (and probably still would), but my appetite and food preferences shifted so often that sometimes it was easier on me (and everyone else) just to make a game time decision when it came to meals (of course, within the limits of my meal plan). My mom was having chicken, skillet green beans, and twice-baked potatoes. It was definitely the “healthiest” option of the night, but it wasn’t something I was ready to eat again. In therapy, I was learning to accept my food preferences without judgement, and to honor my hunger with foods that I actually enjoy.

Although I now enjoy cooking grilled chicken, seasoned green beans, and a sweet potato with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar, green beans and chicken were both a no-go for that night. I asked my dad what he was having for dinner and he said left-over meat loaf.

Absolutely not. The meat loaf was out.

My sister went out to eat with friends that night, so it truly was up to me. I had to make a decision.

As I looked through the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator, nothing sounded particularly good.

Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day, and I knew I wouldn’t be left alone until I picked out something with some substance, so I settled on french toast with strawberries and turkey sausage.

I’m not sure why I chose french toast; it isn’t my usual go-to. Nevertheless, it sounded good, so I tried to honor that preference to make progress in recovery.

I was feeling pretty good when I turned on the stove top and coated the bread in my egg + cinnamon batter until I realized something, that I would have to use butter to cook this french toast.

Butter was one of the foods that I had managed to cut out for a while. It didn’t quite fit into my dairy-free diet, and as ED’s rules became more rigid, I grew to fear it for more reasons than one.

I started to give myself a pep-talk:

Okay you can do it…you can do this. It’s just a little bit of butter, you don’t have to use a lot. It’ll be fine. You will be fine. Butter is a fat but it doesn’t make you fat.  If I want to get better I have to take steps towards recovery, not away. I want to get better, so I will use (a little bit) of the butter. Here I go… 

To my dismay, the little amount of butter that I placed on the skillet had no effect on my battered bread. The toast didn’t seem to be cooking right. I decided to consult my dad.

He walked up to the stove and immediately knew what was wrong:

You need more butter…

Without my permission, he cut off a relatively large slab of butter and threw it into the skillet with my french toast. I was mortified to say the least:

What are you doing?! Oh my gosh you used so much butter!! I don’t need that!! Why?!

He replied:

Honey, sometimes you need butter to make food taste good. Get used to it.

Once I took a few deep breaths, a smile spread across my face and I began to chuckle. For those of you who know my dad, I know it doesn’t shock you that this was his solution to my “french toast dilemma”.

Why in the world did he think that was a good idea? Only God knows. Lord bless him. 

My dad didn’t know anything about eating disorders or recovery at the time. He went to the gas station and bought me a Recess PB Cup when I told him that I had never had one. He offered to make me cheeseburgers and extra snacks on the weekends that I was home. He tried to problem solve with me and rubbed my back when there was nothing left to solve, nothing left to say. He supported me financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and in every other way.

I didn’t really think he understood the whole food component until I realized that I didn’t really understand the whole food component either.

To me, butter symbolized fat and fear.

To him, butter symbolized flavor and enjoyment.

On that night, butter was the missing ingredient.

Once my dad added the butter into the skillet my french toast cooked perfectly and it tasted delicious, just as he promised it would. 

Sure, the butter did add calories to my dinner, calories that my body desperately needed and craved in the late hours of the night. It made the meal more “complete” in a nutritional sense. I left the table feeling full but not “too full”, which can be a miracle when your hunger and satiety cues are all out of sort. I faced one of my fear foods and conquered it. That small victory flipped a switch in my heart and I started to truly believe in my heart what I knew in my head, that who I am and my worth is so much more than my daily calorie intake, exercise routine, dress size, or the portion of butter that I cook my french toast in. 

I also realized that sometimes I don’t know best, and that I needed to start trusting those who I knew did know best. I had to swallow my pride and trust the process that I had absolutely no control over. It felt terrifying and amazing all at the same time.

This is why we celebrate the small victories.

Small steps in the right direction lead to small victories. 

Small victories lead to bigger steps in the right direction. 

Bigger steps in the right direction lead to bigger victories. 

Victory after victory leads to recovery. 

Let go of control, take the next right step, celebrate the small victories, and step out of your comfort zone.

Life is too short to cry over a stick of butter.