Kale Avocado Diet
“I don’t’ want to know the number on the scale, please,” I whisper to the nurse.
“Oh, you’re so thin, nothing to be worried about. Me? Every January I resolve to lose ten pounds,. I even get myself a new gym membership. But swimsuit season is here and well,” she motions up and down her own body. She gently touches my elbow. “Now hop up there. I don’t have to tell you the number.” She chuckles, meaning it as a moment of understanding. She doesn’t really get it. She doesn’t know me.
My feet stay planted.
“I have had a complicated relationship with my….eating habits over the years. I just, I just don’t weigh myself anymore. It helps.” I gaze down at my dingy Converse sneakers, I practiced the explanation in my head during the Lyft ride over.
“You mean, eating disorders? You have had eating disorders.” She sits down. Her eyes lock on her computer screen, methodical and sterile in her inquiry. Fingers tap the keys. I wonder what she is typing. She isn’t joking about beach bodies anymore.
Peaking at her from under my eyelashes, I clear my throat. “Uh, yeah. That’s right.” I suddenly feel very thirsty. My hands are clammy.
I hate the name. Eating disorder. Why couldn’t she have let me stick with ‘complicated relationship?’ So much gentler. The stigma attached to eating disorders is spoiled girls not feeling pretty enough. It is much more complicated than that. My definition works.
Women have gentle codes for our complicated relationships with food and body image. Women with diagnosable disorders, even more so. I am health conscious. I love to be active. I am just careful with what I put in my body. I don’t weigh myself. I keep track of my food. I chase my kids around, a celebrity favorite, but we all know.
I go to my yearly checkups. I see my therapist. I take my anxiety medicine. My therapist has explained, “Eating disorders make anxiety worse.”
I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing to stay on the healthy side of eating disorders. It’s surprising how much thought goes into food when you’re a recovered eating disordered person.
“Ok, I have to weigh you in case the doctor needs to prescribe any meds. Listen, I understand that this is uncomfortable, but I won’t tell you the number and either you can close your eyes or stand backward on the scale,” The nurse explains. Her face is serious but her eyes are soft.
I slide off my Converse, step on, backward, and I close my eyes. The beeps of the electronic scale echo in the small room.
“Ok, all clear, you can hop off.”
I step off and slide my dingy converse back on. I survived.
The therapist always recommends things like mindfulness and less gluten and cardio. The residue of anxiety from my scale visit is sticky, I can’t get it off. Maybe a good sweat will ease it off. I head to the lakefront, for a quick jog to clear my mind. Some time alone in my head. You could argue I need less of that, but running helps. Lists help too.
A banana for breakfast.
Lunch consists of black or brown rice, never white rice (whole grains whole grains whole grains) fresh lime juice, cayenne pepper, extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, literally a pinch, a few twists of fresh black pepper, spinach, arugula, and cilantro for lunch. The greens to rice ratio is important. More greens than rice.
Nothing again until dinner. Unless I feel faint, then I stomach a few pieces of honeydew, pineapple if I am feeling tangy, just to get my blood sugar up enough to not pass out.
I cook dinner. This is good. I am incapable of making unhealthy recipes. A rope wraps around my body, arms, pinning them to my sides when browsing those recipes. Lemon pepper chicken, roasted garlic red potatoes, and green beans are on the menu.
My nighttime snacks must always consist of fruit. Frozen grapes or frozen bananas. Honeycrisp apples, maybe with some almond butter if I am craving sweets. The almond butter must be all natural with no added sugar or salt. It is messy to mix, but worth it for my checklist.
I have perfected the no thank you to the dessert menu at restaurants. My husband has his own speech, “No, that is one thing you will never get her to do, order dessert.” He laughs, maybe because he has to for his own sanity. “I’ll have the baked apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, though.” They always bring two spoons.
Good food. Bad food. Good food. Bad food. If there was a bad food, then tomorrow, only good food, workout, no snacks. Evaluate the belly in the mirror, one time, four times, ten times, every time I go to the bathroom. A quick glance at the ass before hopping in the shower. Today, I can feel the jaggedness of my hipbones. Waves of relief wash over me.
I’ve weaned myself from the daily and hourly weigh-ins. I brag about this accomplishment. It happened years ago but I cling to it like a life raft. It was progress. A hard addiction to break.
The sweat drips off of me as I walk back into my building. It carries my anxiety residue with it.
Pressing the elevator button I see someone running to catch up. I hold the door. She isn’t a sweaty post-run mess like me. She is in a pale pink neatly tailored skirt suit. Taupe nylons and round toed low heels. She is juggling a bunch of folders, out of breath.
“You’re so fit! What is your secret. I wish that I looked like you, your body is just really athletic. How do you do it? I wish I knew your secret to dedication.” She is panting. I see now that she does have a thin sheen of sweat beading across the bridge of her nose.
“Oh well, you know. I run and I am certified in Pilates. I really try to eat healthy, for the most part. But I chase my kids around and workout and just stay active.” I smile, trying to hide my dirty secrets. The ones that consume my thoughts each day. Good food. Bad food. Good food. Bad food. Obsession with body image and an unhealthy relationship with food. Keeping those key pointers to myself. Vomiting the inner workings of my fucked up brain doesn’t seem the correct response to a complete stranger.
I find myself inundated with discussions of body image, weight, diets, plastic surgery, salads, and obsession. In my teens and twenties this was my own private battle. I didn’t have a team. I didn’t have comrades. My thirties find recruitment efforts at an all-time high.
I am offered quick fix diets and fast rewards. The promise of eternal thinness, glowing skin, and a radiant aura. They mean well. They don’t know my embattled history. That simple conversations are a minefield for someone like me.
“Have you tried eliminating every food group except kale and avocados? Like, everything, it’s just kale and avocado mashed into baby food and you eat four two-cup servings of that every day. I feel amazing. Sometimes I put some lemon juice in to spice it up. It is really cleansing for the liver, lemons, you know.” This mom in the park vomiting the details her new found diet. Maybe I was wrong in the elevator, apparently, this is how strangers socialize. We just met today. Our children made one of those instant preschooler park friendships, they both had dinosaur shirts on, they are now best friends.
“Oh, well you know, I will think about it.” I feel intrigued, tempted. I have done extreme elimination diets, lifestyle choices is what I called it. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. At one point I lived on papaya smoothies. Papaya has enzymes. I shift my eyes away, feeling the pull of this binge diet grabbing me. I like kale and avocado. Lemon is cleansing. I could do this again. Muscle memory. I clear my throat, a little almost imperceptible shake of my head, knowing I can’t go back there. Searching for an excuse in the rational part of my brain, I use my child as my crutch.
“The little one is allergic to avocado, so I try to keep that out of the house. I wouldn’t want him to have an accidental reaction.”
Walking away, I puff my chest a little. Pride at being strong enough to fight it off. This time.
Stopping at Whole Foods for dinner ingredients, roasted salmon, brown rice, and steamed broccoli, I encounter a sample counter. Some sort of split pea soup green frothy concoction is arranged neatly in small shot glasses. A bright sign hanging in front of the table tries to distract from the ugliness of the beverage.
“Shakes, you just drink shakes every single day. No solid food. They’re made of cayenne pepper, raw egg whites, asparagus, and a pinch of wheat grass. You drink seven of those a day and I swear, the fat, it melts right off. I lost forty pounds! Your pee smells really funky and you get used to the taste really quickly.” It doesn’t smell like split pea soup. It smells like the asparagus has already been urinated out.
“Oh wow! That sounds….different. Eggs, they bother my stomach cooked, I can’t imagine raw. I have to be careful because of, IBS. Yeah, um, I had a bout of IBS a while back and things are pretty good right now so, I’d hate to mess with that. I actually need to grab another bottle of probiotics, but thank you.”
Master of deflection and polite declines. She does look very thin though. It must be working. Maybe I could tolerate the eggs, I can eat cooked egg whites. My stomach has been feeling great lately, it could be time to try this. Maybe, I am not sure.
On the walk home, I bump into an acquaintance from an old retail job. I haven’t seen her in years. I try to recall the exact year, yes, it was before I met my husband. You would think in Chicago, this would be impossible. It’s not.
“I just had a procedure done at the dermatologist. They take shark fat and inject it into your lower abdomen. It absorbs and consumes your belly fat, basically, eating human fat alive, giving you the flattest abs. Mine are like a sixteen year old gymnast’s abs. I have had four babies and you wouldn’t even know. I passed out a couple times and had one nasty infection that landed me in the hospital for three weeks, but I recovered. It was worth it. I’ll give you a card.”
“Three weeks? Are you ok now? I mean, I get really annoyed with my lower belly, but I am not sure I have time to be sick for three weeks. Do you know why you had the infection? Is this common? It makes me nervous. I had a bad reaction to surgery when my appendix decided to get infected. I had hemoglobin issues, I don’t know if I am eager to get back into the operating room if I don’t have to. I do a lot of Pilates. It seems to keep the abs in check as best it can. But thanks, you look amazing.”
Deflection and compliments. Trying not to betray the fact that a quick fix is as enticing as chocolate ganache. The anxiety rises. I can feel it pulling me away from my carefully crafted internal voice. A procedure like that could make my life much better. Maybe.
Holding my son’s little hand as we continued our walk home, my older son skipping ahead, we are surprised by a small farmer’s market. It’s set up in the park by our home. A quick stroll through before ending our day seems lovely. Booth after booth offering cookies, pies, homemade jams, and delectable treats. From afar I spot a sign mentioning natural beauty products. Handing the man a wad of cash at the kettle corn booth, I scoop up two bags and hand them to my children. We make our way to the one booth I know I can find something for myself, a candle or hand cream.
“These products are made from genuine baby tears, goat milk, poison ivy extract, and yeti semen. All natural, non-GMO, USDA certified organic, and approved by the EU. They will work better than any prescription or over the counter product. You only use the smallest of dabs, and while, sure it is one hundred times the cost of every other product, a bottle lasts longer, so basically, it evens out.”
“I’m sorry, did you say poison ivy extract? Wouldn’t that cause a rash?”
“Oh no! I thought that too. No. The way we distill the plant, it pulls the reactive toxins, only leaving behind components that will drain the toxins from your skin, leaving you exfoliated and smooth. I use it daily.”
Her face looks like a duck dealing with a bout of edema.
“I see. Distillation process. Ok. I’m hesitant to switch entirely right now, I’m not unhappy with my products, but I’m usually always open to trying new things. I would take a sample and…think about it. Do you have any candles?”
I purse my lips out as I walk away. They feel puffy naturally, but wrinkles and dehydration are creeping up each year. My hands glide across my naturally full cheeks. Chipmunk cheeks was my nickname as a child. They’re still hanging on, a bit. I think.
We make it home. I make it home. The boys settle in and I sulk away to the refuge of my bathroom. Glancing in the mirror, I pinch my low belly pudge. One day I feel fit and svelte and tiny, then next morning I wake up certain I’ve ballooned up by fifteen pounds. I felt good this morning. Arriving home, I feel the certainty of instant weight gain.
Maybe that egg shake would help.
Maybe the shark fat would really devour it.
I turn sideways, how is that view these days, flattish? Who’s to say I would get the infection. An infection might take away my appetite. I could lose even more weight.
My arms don’t look as toned as they did yesterday, maybe I didn’t plank long enough this morning. My skin looks pallid. Maybe it’s the lighting or the kids keeping me up last night. That serum sounded promising, if I don’t have an allergic reaction. At the very least, I would get some color in my cheeks.
I pull down my shirt. I just have to focus on my good food and workouts. My checklist. It keeps me on track. The mirror won’t give me answers. Thinking of the lovely women who are only trying to help, while I hide behind my tight smiles and painful chuckles. They must see my secrets oozing from my less than clear skin.
Forcing myself to step outside of the refuge of my bathroom, I make my way to the kitchen. To cook the good food for dinner. I start the brown rice first, it takes the longest, forty minutes. I add a little olive oil and sea salt because it makes it fluffier and more flavorful. The thoughts follow me across the house.
The rice comes to a boil, I reduce the heat and put the lid and timer on. Post-thirties self-doubt comes for all, no race or creed is overlooked. The fear of weight or age looming over perfectly dyed roots, silky blowouts, maintained manicures, and long full black eyelashes.
I zest two limes, the thin green pieces pile up on the blue cutting board. I squeeze their juice out into a bowl. Whisking it with more olive oil and sea salt, and some chili powder.
Are my eyelashes long enough? I have always thought they were long, but maybe I need to try those glue on ones. I tried to once, giving up after two minutes of pure frustration. Pondering how women apply them so perfectly every day.
The water for the broccoli begins to boil, I place the florets in the steamer pot and secure it above the boiling water.
Glancing at my chewed on fingers, knowing perfectly manicured is not in the cards. Chewing nervously on all ten digits in the corner is more my style. Maybe blood counts as a splash of color on my nail beds.
I unwrap the salmon from the butcher paper. I hate touching the raw meat, I am obsessive with washing my hands as soon as I get it in the roasting pan. I drizzle the lime marinade over the salmon. I top it off with a sprinkle of zest. The oven dings, it’s preheated. I pull the door open.
“Mommy?” My son’s voice startles me.
“Are you making good food or bad food tonight?”