Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Working Lunch

Today I watched another girl eat lunch.

Not in a creepy way - there was an all-staff meeting at the nonprofit where I work, so we were all crowded into a conference room from 12-1:30. All the interns were sitting around a big table and most people brought their lunches. (Not me, obviously. I had eaten at my desk ten minutes earlier. Still not totally okay with eating in front of that many people.)

This girl was sitting directly across from me and I couldn't really not watch her, but maybe a non-eating disordered person wouldn't have been as completely fascinated by it as I was.  Because I was completely and utterly enthralled by this girl.

Her lunch was pretty ordinary as far as lunches go. Sandwich, pretzels, cookies, lemonade. It was the type of balanced, non-obsessional lunch my dietician would craft and write out neatly onto my meal plan while trying to convince me that people eat stuff like that all the time. To me, though, it seemed like the idea of a standard lunch, like something you would see on MyPlate.gov. A standard lunch in theory, but not something I could imagine people actually eating in real life. Not something I could eat without getting fat.

But this girl was eating like it was no big deal. She even spoke up during the presentation to ask a question, the half-eaten sandwich still in her hand.  It was baffling to me that she seemed to have zero self-consciousness, even mid-meal.  Craziness.

I found myself trying to count up her calories as I watched the girl eat, wondering how much meat was on the sandwich, whether she'd used two slices of cheese, mayonaise or mustard, regular wheat bread or the thick grainy stuff. Because if I'd made the sandwich for myself, I would have known exact amounts of each ingredient, right down to the lettuce.

Then I began speculating on what she would eat for the rest of the day. Maybe there were X calories in the lunch...would she then have a snack later, or was this it until dinner? How much would she eat for dinner? What had she eaten for breakfast? Did she have the same breakfast every day? I had a sudden image of her eating cereal. What kind? How much? Did she measure it out first or just pour? Probably just pour. But then how would she know how much she was eating? Calories?!

And just like that, the 90-min meeting was over.

(Don't worry. I didn't miss anything important.)

Was this a productive exercise, obsessing over this girl's lunch? Nope. Especially not for me, since I obsess plenty about my own food and definitely don't need to take on anyone else's. It was eye-opening though, because I tend to assume that everyone obsesses about food as much as I do. Sometimes I need to be reminded that most people eat what they want, when they want, and maintain their weights just fine. See, Kaylee? If other people can eat normal amounts of normal food and stay the same weight, then so can you.

Then there's always the nagging thought: but what if I don't want to stay the same weight? What if I can do better?

I'm working hard to keep moving forward, even though my body image sucks and I hate everything about being at this weight. My therapist keeps telling me that it gets easier, that I have to give myself more time to get used to it, and then my body won't feel like a fat suit anymore. For now, I'm trying to hang in there, eat what I'm supposed to, trust that it will get better.

Because mostly what I felt after being a creeper and watching the girl eat today was jealousy. I wanted to be her so badly and be able to eat a normal, government-approved lunch without even knowing how much lettuce was on the sandwich.

1 comment:

  1. You are a fantastic writer. And I will say that it gets easier. I used to have these exact same thoughts and creeper moments, and yet these days I am that person who just eats and takes care of herself without a lot of thought about it. I can eat cookies if someone brings them to a staff meeting and I can head out to dinner with friends just knowing that we're eating somewhere at the mall without selecting the restaurant and my meal ahead of time and analyzing its calorie count online. And recently, I have even felt pretty attractive. It gets easier. Just keep working and soon you will be the person eating the government approved lunch. I know it's hard to fathom but these changes happen when you're not paying attention and suddenly you're just like "wow. Let me take a step back and really cherish this."