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The making of a dinner party - by recovered anorexic

“It’s never really about the food”, he said. Thinking to myself, it so is about the food – as I cannot bring myself to eat - I was confused as to how on earth I ended up sitting in a psychiatrist’s office. And yet, by some force of the universe, I had a feeling he was going to help me.

Fast forward a couple of years later and I confirm: “It’s not really about the food”.

It’s Monday morning and this upcoming Sunday, December 2nd, I will be hosting a dinner party in memory of the traditional Thanksgiving I used to celebrate in New York, in celebration of moving to London, in marking a first event in my newly rented home, in showing gratitude for having the people I adore in my life. It will be a mix of a belated Thanksgiving, a housewarming, a secret Santa gift exchange and an afternoon spent with beloved friends. I baptized the event “Friendsgiving”.

Wishing for everybody to contribute in some way, I assigned a specific task to each one of my guests: from flower arrangements to the supply of Rouge, from cheese plating to sweet potato baking, all the way to famous Turkey making. As for myself, I decided to take on salad and desert. Safe food / fear food, for those familiar with eating disorder recovery lingo, but really just a way for me to honor the “host” position (and cook something), whilst making sure that if things go awry (which they did), my guests are fed more “dominant” dishes.

The event is in six days, and so it begins. What fruit do I chose for the torte? Should I bake the first one mid week and perfect the recipe by Sunday? Do I buy salad dressing, or do I concoct it myself? Perhaps I make a salad every day this week, trying out different dressings until I get it just right? These were all questions racing through my head, as I separately google “best fresh-produce market in London” and redirect my search to Ikea’s tableware section, shortly after. Alongside all the pondering, my mind stays highly disturbed by the uncertainty of securing a perfect girl to guy ratio, or the fact that Shan suggested Tequila as a digestif (which is not a digestif!!) Really Shan? Are you making it a point to ruin my dinner?

If you are familiar with the personality traits that make one prone to developing anorexia, you will not be surprised by the fact that a couple of years ago, I was an expert in starving myself.

Recovery got me back to a healthy weight and free mind, but the perfectionism, anxious personality, “black and white” thinking, necessity for control, need to please others, and difficulty in expressing thoughts and emotions, they stayed.

Rather than feeling relief from my guests providing most of the food, detachment from the perfected male to female ratio for it’s all about being with my favorite people, confidence from assuming the role of host and being in a position to ask Shan to bring something else, or liberation from the fact that I can always buy a torte, I was setting myself up for anxiety in cruising the week leading up to the event.

Recovery will not change your personality, but you will learn coping mechanisms and techniques to challenge your anorexia. At first, it’s with the food, and then, the temperament.

As I completely burnt the torte in the oven on Saturday night, rather than cancelling my plans for the evening and stay home to bake another, I decided to buy desert at a local patisserie the next day. Instead of spending my week perfecting the salad dressing, I decided to simply pour on some olive oil and vinegar - no one cares about salad anyway. In place of torturing myself about the possibility of hurting Shan’s feelings, I owned up to speaking my thoughts and asked him to bring Mastika. In lieu of focusing on the equal ratio of opposite sexes, I placed attention on how blessed I am to have this many girlfriends.

So here’s the conclusion to this season’s Friendsgivng:

Reminded of how I was once petrified, shaking and crying, when faced with food, I indulged in the taste of freedom all the more, as I brought awareness to my renewed ability to fully enjoy eating in the company of people. And even more delightful than the fruit torte, was being put in touch with the crisp fruits of my own recovery. As the evening was winding down, I showed a discreet, but very honest smile for how much I was able to grow by learning to let go.

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