Content warning: eating disorders
“What if I told you you could eat as much as you want?”
“And what if I told you you should eat as much as you want?”
A pause. “Okay.”
“And what if I told you you must eat as much as you want, like there’s no tomorrow?”
“Because if you don’t, well—” A pause. “It might be a lie to say there won’t be a tomorrow. But there will be fewer of them.” Another pause. “And we both know you know that.”
The longest pause yet.
Becca cried herself to sleep and awoke very early in the morning. She felt like she hadn’t even slept, even though the clock told her that eight hours had passed.
“I slept,” she consoled herself, and got out of bed. Before she even stood up she understood how incredibly hungry she was. But it was so early… too early to eat breakfast.
She reminded herself she would still eat breakfast no matter the time.
She got herself out of bed by 8 AM.
Then she went to the bathroom and took a long pee she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.
Downstairs she encountered her dog. It was early enough no one else had walked him yet. She felt so hungry she ate her two gummy multivitamins before putting on his leash. On the doormat she dallied; did she need a coat? There was still snow on the ground. It didn’t matter what temperature her weather app said it was—sometimes it was warm out and she shivered like a hypothermia patient and sometimes it was cold out and she sweated like a pig.
She put on the socks that lay crumpled by the doormat (her dog had been gnawing on them yesterday), stuffed her feet into sneakers, and went outside. It was not so cold that she regretted skipping the coat.
Her dog did his business very quickly. It was 8:12 AM when they returned from the walk. Becca remembered: it was time to eat. She fed her dog first, two flat scoops of dog kibble and one rounded scoop of wet food. Then she opened all the cabinets and all the drawers and the fridge and all its drawers and the freezer as well because, despite having decided already the night before what to have for breakfast, she now felt indecisive.
She decided to start by making hot chocolate.
(But the decadent kind, not the unsweetened kind.)
Becca was determined to do this right.
First she poured in enough white chocolate chips to cover the bottom of the biggest mug she could find. Then she filled the kettle and put it on. Then she felt bad; she needed more chocolate chips than that. She poured in some more and six more than she had intended to add also fell out of the bag.
Becca took a deep breath. This was right.
She spooned on two fat tablespoons of cocoa powder.
While the kettle heated up she danced around and made cooing noises to her dog, who had already devoured his breakfast and was now lying catatonic on the couch.
When the kettle whistled she poured in just enough hot water to cover the cocoa powder and white chocolate chips. She had promised herself in advance she would pour no more than the quantity absolutely necessary to dissolve the cocoa powder and melt the chips. This no more than the quantity absolutely necessary turned out to be more than she had estimated it would be, or at least the mug already looked half full. Were her hands shaky today?
She acknowledged in words spoken in her head that yes she was hungry but no her hands were not shaking, the kettle was just big and her wrists small and weak. And she reminded herself that the upper half of the mug contained considerably more volume than the lower half and also that most of the volume in the lower half was already filled by white chocolate chips and cocoa powder, which she should congratulate herself about, because she had really put in three tablespoons, not two, given how big her spoonfuls had been—not that this was really worth delineating as a victory, because cocoa powder is not so impressive beside white chocolate chips.
She got out one of the teaspoons but one of the wide-mouth ones, not one of the narrow-mouth ones, which seem smaller and therefore less terrifying but are in fact also still teaspoons (so she couldn’t tell if this was a victory or not too).
She stirred the white chocolate chips and cocoa powder and boiling water very vigorously, until it was all as well-combined as it was going to be. She had somehow thought it would be possible to make the mixture completely smooth and homogenous but white chocolate chips don’t work that way.
She stopped at last when the mixture was mostly homogenous and very creamy.
She took the skim milk from the fridge. She was supposed to drink two cups of cow’s milk per day; she was starting off strong. (There was no whole or reduced or low-fat in the fridge for her to feel ashamed about not drinking in lieu of the skim milk.)
She poured the milk into the milk steamer somewhere between the minimum and maximum line and she didn’t look to see where, this was a victory, steamed it, danced around a little bit while the steamer made its funny choking noises that she knew it made because she didn’t know how to use it properly, but who cared because the milk always still got steamed, and then she poured it carefully onto the mostly homogenous mixture in the big mug. She poured it carefully because she wanted the foamy part to sit on top and not be deflated.
She cleaned the wand of the milk steamer, emptied out the little tray underneath it, and wiped the heat sensor. Then she took the tray back out and rinsed it because she knew it was the right thing, what if there was a bit of milk left in the tray that sat out for days and days and soured and smelled awful?
Then she rinsed out the metal milk steamer cup and put it in the dishwasher, which was half-full of dirty dishes.
Then Becca returned to her hot chocolate.
She acknowledged that the hot chocolate needed just a little bit something more. She got out the cinnamon and shook some on top. Then she found a chai spice mix and hesitated. She put the chai spice mix back even though it was near its expiration date, because she really didn’t feel like chai spice, and she was acknowledging that preference, which was perhaps also a victory.
Instead, she shook on some turmeric—because turmeric supposedly helps with immune function, or hormonal function, or something, which she didn’t really believe, and she’d just chosen turmeric because it was pretty and she actually really did think it tasted good.
Then she very, very delicately swirled the top of the hot chocolate in such a way that the foam was not deflated but the spices were swirled into the white milk foam in an appetizing manner.
Then she took a photo—because it was pretty.
Then she got a glass of water, because really, it was almost 8:45 AM, she must be thirsty by now, and hydration is very important.
Then she sat down with her reading homework, realized the morning sun was too faint, and got back up to turn on the kitchen light. It was a cloudy morning; even though her weather app said it was above freezing there was hardly any sunlight and therefore the remnants of snow outside were still not melting and while walking her dog she’d had to be careful of slipping in case there was ice because she knew, she knew all too well, that if she fell she might not just fall, she was a young woman with old woman bones, the scan had told her so.
Becca reminded herself that looking normal wasn’t an indicator of anything and bodies don’t get memos of percentiles and weight ranges being technically, say, just greater than an official quantity of 18.5, the unit of which was irrelevant to everything and everyone except, perhaps, a statistical chart, and she had fought hard to not have to take statistics in high school so she had no clue what that meant, anyway.
She drank some of her water. About half a glass.
Then she sat down with her reading homework and her hot chocolate masterpiece and reminded herself that if she didn’t drink it now, the foam would soon all be gone and it would be cold and she was cold enough that she didn’t want to drink cold chocolate.
If she had wanted to drink cold chocolate she would’ve just poured a goddamn glass of chocolate milk.
Becca took a deep breath and scooped some of the foam off the top of her hot chocolate with her wide-mouth teaspoon.
It tasted damn good. She had forgotten what sweetened hot chocolate tasted like.
She reminded herself she needed to really consume this, all of it, in not too long a timeframe, because she was supposed to take her slow-release calcium pills at this time and if she didn’t have it in a reasonable timeframe, then the slow-release calcium pills might not realize she’d eaten, that is it wouldn’t qualify as taking the pills with food, and her cortisol levels might rise and her hunger might also rise, and her body might still think it was in terrible, terrible danger.
Well, it did think she was in terrible danger, it had been thinking that for a long time. But she was ready to calm it down. She was trying her hardest to calm it down.
By the time Becca finished the hot chocolate, and three glasses of water, she had even sipped some of the mostly homogenous mixture straight from the mug (which was the biggest mug she had been able to find), and therefore not just from the short end of her wide-mouthed teaspoon.
She reminded herself: This is a victory.
She was right, it was a victory.