I got ice cream with some friends on Tuesday night.
Birthday cake ice cream.
With a waffle cone.
And I ate all of it.
The amount of shame I feel by typing those words is…well, it’s disordered.
I should feel proud. Ice cream is one of my biggest fear foods. Before treatment, I can’t remember a time that I ate ice cream and didn’t use behaviors. I hadn’t eaten ice cream behavior free in probably around 10 years.
But yesterday I did. For the first time in god knows how long, I ate ice cream without using behaviors. Actually, let me rephrase that: for the first time I willingly ate ice cream without using behaviors even though I had many opportunities to.
And that’s it. None of my friends judged me for eating it. None of them gasped at how much I got or that I got a waffle cone or that I was way too fat to be eating it. We just ate it and we laughed and had a good time and I got a glimmer of what it’s like to be a “normal” eater.
I remember when we got ice cream as a challenge snack in treatment. It was the first time I had eaten ice cream in a long time and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to use behaviors afterwards so I was freaking out. I remember sitting on a bench with some friends, fighting with everything I had to keep raising the spoon to my mouth and taking bites. I was super detached from everything and wasn’t paying attention to anyone around me except for a girl sitting at a table across from me.
She was around my age, probably a few years younger, still in high school and sitting with a guy just eating her ice cream. I assumed that the guy was her boyfriend and was a) amazed that she was able to eat ice cream with him at all. I remember not being comfortable eating anything but salads or safe foods with my boyfriend. I could never have imagined letting him see me eat ice cream and b) that she was enjoying herself. It was one of the first warm days in Denver that spring, so we were all sitting outside and they were sitting there laughing and joking around and just having fun in the present moment with each other. The ice cream was an after-thought. It wasn’t their main focus. As she sat there, mindlessly eating, I was amazed. It was one of my first realizations of what eating without ED must be like. They probably decided that since it was such a nice day they would get some ice cream, and so they did.
They didn’t plan in advance or have to convince themselves that it fit into their food plan for the day, or figure out compensations. They just went to Bonnie Brae, got some ice cream and ate it and then left and went on with their day. They can probably look back and smile at that memory. Just enjoying each other’s presence on a beautiful day, whereas I knew if I was her I would look back and see the ice cream. That’s it. I would remember what flavor it was and how much I got and how many calories were in it and everything else that followed would be about the ice cream. Sure, I would remember laughing and pretending to have a good time but all of that would be an afterthought, but here was this girl, eating ice cream and living her life. Obviously, I don’t know her but in that moment, she inspired me. She made me realize that people my age did that sort of thing. It can be a mundane, but enjoyable, part of life.
I haven’t forgotten that girl, which makes me feel like a creep, honestly. But once I was finished on Tuesday, I was super uncomfortable but I realized that I had done it. I had let the ice cream be an afterthought. Yeah, I still focused on it more than I wanted to but once I was done, I tried really hard to focus on being in the present moment and then the next morning I remembered that girl and I was able to smile a little. I was able to see pieces of her in myself the night before. I laughed and had fun and ate some (really good) ice cream with my friends like a college student should.
For the first time, I can look back at me eating ice cream and remember the other stuff too. I can look back and remember how good it was instead of figuring out the calories. I can remember the jokes and the stories shared instead of trying to figure out what I thought everyone else was thinking about me.
So yeah, I ate ice cream the other day, and it was pretty damn good.
Here’s to more tiny triumphs and more nights like that.