Retail Therapy

I’ve been thinking a lot about Stefani Ruper’s post on Paleo for Women about doing away with our mirrors in order to promote a better self-image. I think it’s such an empowering idea (if not a little difficult)…can you imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have to answer to our own judgments? Ever since I read that post, I’ve had Sesame Street’s “Monster in the Mirror” Song stuck in my head. I find it kind of fitting, though, when thinking about my ED. 

“Saw a monster in the mirror when I woke up today
A monster in my mirror but I did not run away
I did not shed a tear or hide beneath my bed
Though the monster looked at me and this is what he said:

…’Do not wubba me or I will wubba you.'”

In the song, Grover wakes up and has to face a scary looking monster in his mirror–a monster who, he realizes, is actually him. And he has to learn how to sing along with the monster or else the monster will “wubba” him–sort of like how I learned how to deal with my ED. Because the stronger ED became, the scarier he was–and the harder it was to summon the strength to look at my reflection. I had to learn how to stop looking–or find a way to sing along without letting the Monster “wubba” me. And for me, that song was Retail.

“…If your mirror has a monster in it, do not shout
This kind of situation does not call for freaking out
And do nothing that you would not like to see him do
‘Cause that monster in the mirror he just might be you…”

I found myself thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t being forced into inpatient treatment now that I had found myself an effective form of retail therapy. Instead of being force-fed bagels and weight gain shakes, I supplemented my high-protein, bikini competition diet with a steady stream of metaphorical Kool-Aid.

And it’s no wonder that the Kool-Aid worked wonders: for the last several months, I had been entirely alone with my own thoughts and constantly confronted with ED, the Monster in the Mirror. Once I had a job at the mall, I was stuck for 9-plus hours in a windowless box, confronted with an endless stream of other people who had problems to solve and needs to be met. And my meal breaks were programmed into my day (each small snack eaten on a 15 or on a 30-minute or hour-long lunch), so I didn’t have to worry that I wouldn’t have time to eat. For the first time in a long time, I was focusing my attention outward–and like garlic to vampires, other people helped me ward off the Monster in the Mirror.

Moreover, I finally had “friends.” No, I still went home directly after my shift and panicked if I had to go out after dark, but I at least had an incredible, dynamic, amazing cast of characters to look forward to seeing each time I worked. No, I never called any of them or offered to sit with them in the food court, but I felt accepted and loved, if only for a few hours a day.

My therapist urged me to get to know these people better. She saw a breakthrough coming–and so did I. So I did the only thing I knew how to do: resist it at all costs.

With the holidays approaching, my managers started approving massive overtime, so I was working constantly. I was still a part-timer and not receiving benefits, but I needed the money, so any offer my managers made for extra hours I gladly accepted (so long as those hours did not overlap with a feeding time for which I hadn’t packed and planned).

During this time, I also started taking my fitness to a different level. I was doing serious squats and deadlifts, and turning heads at the gym with my strange-looking plyometric routines (remember, this was before box gyms started buying into the whole “functional fitness” thing and stocking their new, open, functional areas with bouncy medicine balls, battle ropes, and speed ladders). I cut way down on my cardio (mainly because I just didn’t have time, now that I had to get to work after my workout), and started picking up heavier and heavier weights.

I even ventured into the gym with one of the guys from work–my first real friend in this new life I was living. I gave him some tips on training, and we spotted each other at the squat rack. I even spent time post-workout with him–talking about nothing in particular and worrying about the future. It was liberating.

My food, however, was still a major issue.

Because I had so much less time to cook (and because working a retail schedule meant unpredictable hours, all of which spent away from a source of healthy, non-mall food), I started to rely more and more heavily on egg whites and protein powders. In fact, my entire diet became based on combinations of egg whites and protein powders. I learned ways to mix in oatmeal, apples, berries, cottage cheese, peanut or almond butter and massive quantities of stevia, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in order to provide enough variety for six meals per day.* Sure, I still had my boiled chicken and dry turkey breasts with defrosted stir-fry vegetables, but those taste sensations didn’t stop me from craving my protein-powder-and-baby-food puddings. Yes, I ate baby food. I was hitting nutritional rock bottom.

My body started giving out on me during my workouts, and I was showing up at work with an impinged shoulder or a pulled hamstring.

I pushed through these “minor” injuries, and continued working out. Since the store wasn’t open all night and my shifts couldn’t last forever, working out was all I had to keep the Monster in the Mirror at bay.

ED couldn’t follow me to work, but he damn sure tried.

-K.

*I think some of these recipes are actually better than the crap that I actually shoved down my throat, but here’s an idea of things people actually do instead of eating real food : “20 Delicious Protein Powder Recipes That Are Not Shakes“+

+”Delicious” is disputable, although I suppose it’s a subjective thing; anything is probably delicious when you haven’t eaten anything but plain chicken for six months. And if you add enough fake sugar, well, then anything is possible.

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