A long time ago, my therapist asked me if my being vegetarian was more related to my eating disorder than it was to a conscious lifestyle decision around the avoidance of meat and meat products. I remembered, fleetingly what fuelled my original decision to be vegetarian but let this pass and then lied to her anyway. We abandoned that avenue of enquiry after I successfully convinced her that my being vegetarian had nothing to do with my disorder
That lie has endured for the last 18 years (since 1998). I used to eat meat quite happily, though admittedly I was a fussy meat eater, as I often had texture issues and the cuts of meat we had as a family were pretty awful as we didn’t have much money. Now, beginning this phase of my recovery, and having thought about this a lot over the last year, I’m finally ready to let go of being vegetarian. This is not because I’m desperate to eat meat again. It truly isn’t, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my non-bingeing eating didn’t change that much. The simple fact is what I should have told my therapist all that time ago was that I was using meat as a punitive binge food, this maxed-out my guilt and feelings of self-disgust. I had given up meat in 1998 for one simple, yet inescapable, reason: I had read in a magazine that living on a meat-free diet would result in a substantial drop in calorie intake, and I was desperate for anything that allowed me to binge of seemingly fewer calories.
There was no logic to this, there was no permitted understanding that eating a little meat was still better for someone than eating carbs and cheese enough for a family of six. I had given up meat because I believed it would make me thin – no other reason. I’ve lied about all sorts of dietary stuff over the years. I’ve said I’ve had coeliac (a dreadful thing to say, once one knows an actual sufferer, who endure torture). I’ve said I was allergic to foodstuffs, that I was actually fine with. It is truly part of the disorder – inventing a hundred and one ways to justify avoiding foods, whilst uncontrollably bingeing on those very foods. It forms part of the web of lies and half-truths that are spun by people who face everyday in a state of panic because the day will inevitably involve eating (or not eating).
So there you have it, since yesterday I’ve told three of my friends that I am no longer vegetarian – goodness only knows that my family will say but I simply relieved to be finally rid of a lie I told myself, and then others, so long ago, fuelled by a desperate desire to be thin whilst losing myself in food when alone.
If any other men have had a similar experience, and you read this please let me know, so that I don’t completely mad for doing this for all this time.