That’s right, folks. POH-TAY-TOH! One of my best friends showed me some “Baby Milestone Stickers” once when I was visiting her in Boston. It was before my goddaughter was scooting, crawling, or even holding two blocks. They said little phrases like, “First word!” and “First tooth!” Well, I want a sticker that says “FIRST HOME-COOKED SWEET POTATO!” gosh darn it.
Let me explain a little something about my flavor of orthorexia. It goes beyond a mere preoccupation with healthy eating. I was OBSESSED with counting calories, grams of sugar and starches, reading every ingredient on a nutrition label, and knowing exactly what chemicals, contaminants, germs, or specks of dirt I might be inadvertently putting into my body. The more crazed I became, the more out of control my life felt. The more out of control my life felt, the more I turned to rigid food rules to try to create order from the chaos. I cut out all carbohydrates except oatmeal. I went years without touching a potato. Even peas were too starchy and were eliminated. Carrots contained too much sugar. The only nuts I could trust were almonds. Cooking with olive oil was too high in calories. I developed a serious salt addiction… probably because my food tasted like… well, like celery, radishes, and spinach, which were main staples of my diet for about four years.
It was quite the battle when my first nutritionist attempted to convince me that I needed to reintroduce carbohydrates to my diet… AT EVERY MEAL! *GASP* I lost many nights of sleep tossing and turning. I cried. I fought. I am pretty sure I screamed (although not at my nutritionist, but rather on the phone to a friend as I vented my frustration). I was convinced she was going to make me fat, and I was certain that I did not need any more carbs. I was getting plenty with my one bowl of oatmeal a day. I. Was. Wrong. It was a knock-down, drag-out, bloody street fight, but I really didn’t have much to lose. My career was in the toilet, and if I didn’t get a handle on my eating disorder, I was pretty certain I was going to die. So, begrudgingly, I ate some toast. Now, I would only eat toast made from organic, sprouted, multigrain Ezekiel bread, but it was progress. I adjusted to my new diet of *GASP* sandwiches, and soon I was trying a little quinoa (not too much, though, because it’s rather calorie-dense, you know!) My crazy mood swings leveled out, and I started to actually feel better.
My first sweet potato recontre happened a few days after Christmas. The challenge – to eat out in a [freaking] restaurant. Again, there was profuse and abundant protesting on my part, accompanied by overwhelming, paralyzing fear. Terror and anxiety lurked behind every thought. How would I measure my portion sizes? What if there was nothing I wanted to eat on the menu? What if I just couldn’t control my binge eating impulses and I completely lost it all?! I planned out every detail. I chose the restaurant, the time, perused the menu in detail and decided exactly what I would order, and arranged it all with my mother in advance. I went over and over my meal plan, “Ok, how many inches across and how many inches wide is one serving of potato, again?” Yup, it was horrifying. Yup, it was an awful feeling to be sitting in that restaurant at that table surrounded by all the noise, unable to hear my own thoughts. But, it was not intolerable. I survived. And… I learned that sweet potatoes are delicious!
Sweet potatoes became a safe food that was ok to eat in limited amounts sometimes, on special occasions like dining out with friends, but I never, ever would bring one into my kitchen to cook it for a routine, everyday, hum drum dinner. Until one day I did. Now, I must confess, I did whip out my ruler to slice off the exact amount that constituted a single exchange by the Walden meal plan, but the moral of the story is that I baked a potato in my own apartment and happily ate it. I wanted to declare it to the world.
ATTENTION, WORLD… I HAVE AN EARTH-SHATTERING ANNOUNCEMENT. I HAVE EATEN A POTATO. YOU MAY APPLAUD. YES, I AM AWESOME, THANK YOU.