Risotto Impromptu

Featured Image:  “Risotto for Dinner,” © julochka (own work), May 2014. CC BY-NC 2.0. (license)

“Well, I still need to take a shower, and I need to wash and blow-dry my hair…” confessed Rachel. I glanced at the clock on the car dash. It was 11am on a Sunday morning, and I was home in Connecticut for a visit. As I wound my way over back roads to the nearby mall to find a Star Wars-themed gift for one of my favorite four-going-on-five year olds, I was also attempting to make plans with my oldest friend. A nearby thrift store was holding a 50% off Labor Day Weekend sale, and she was itching to rummage through its racks. I wanted to scope out the fall selections at one of my favorite clothing shops. In my bag, I was toting a lone granola bar for my mid-morning snack, but that would quickly be eaten. Soon, the lunch hour would be upon us…

“Take whatever time you need!” I cheerfully told her. “We’ll figure something out!” We arranged to meet at a convenient bookstore. Immediately, I ended the call and dialed my sister-in-law. “Quick! What are some restaurant options near Evergreen where they might serve something we would eat?!”

My parents’ community, like most American suburbs, is dotted with fast-food take-out joints, pizza dives, Chinese restaurants, and a plethora of Burger Kings, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Starbucks, Olive Gardens, Red Robbins, and the like. Part of my eating disorder recovery is mindful eating – paying close attention to flavor, texture, and quality of food, determining my actual likes and dislikes, and choosing foods that are appealing to my appetite and senses, rather than limiting myself to foods that I deem “good” or “bad” based on my very narrow and rigidly defined laws about healthiness (or lack thereof). Some people might label me a snob, but I prefer to see myself as someone who is becoming more aware of how delightful it can be to enjoy an entire dining experience, and I admittedly remain a bit inflexible around the issue of compromising.

Unfortunately, after living away for nearly fifteen years, I am not ready with a list of interesting dining options in the event of impromptu meals out. My sis is a great support when it comes to such challenges. She does not have an eating disorder, but we have somewhat similar culinary preferences – we both favor restaurants with kitchens where a chef prepares your dish from fresh ingredients when you order it, and we are keen on menus offering plentiful choices that aren’t too heavy, fried, creamy, dense, or drowning in sauce. I like my food to be savory and simple, with vegetable sides.

man-standing-in-kitchen
Man Standing by Kitchen With Turned on Lights,” accessed from Pexels.com.

Within a few minutes, I was furnished with the names of three places that were close at hand to the shops. A quick flip of my thumb along the screen of my iPhone brought up their menus, and a casual glance reassured me that I was, indeed, safe. I was able to enjoy a worry-free afternoon with Rachel, without the intrusive distraction of ruminative, anxious thoughts about how I was going to satisfy my lunch needs.

When we finally paused to eat, it wasn’t difficult to settle on the place. The weather was balmy and blissful, and we chose the restaurant with the best outdoor seating. We were led to a table straight away, and our server greeted us with a charming and friendly introduction. My eye fell immediately upon the beet salad, one of my favorite sides. Deciding what to pair it with was a bit more difficult. “Don’t worry,” winked our waiter mischievously. “I won’t let you order an unreasonable amount of food.” He sounded unconvincing.

There were some very reassuring options on the menu, which featured a range of selections from a basic turkey sandwich, to a plain steak with sides, to a light piece of chicken with rice or mashed potatoes and a vegetable. Yet, there were many more interesting descriptions that ignited my curiosity. “What is the Mediterranean chicken with risotto like?” I politely inquired. “Is it heavy? Is it a large portion?” He admitted that it was a bit larger, but my tastebuds were watering. Tomatoes, artichokes, and spinach with pesto, chicken, and… risotto… I decided I would try it. With my beet salad to help fill me up, I could plan to take part of it home for another meal, and if it was unappetizing, it wouldn’t be a total disaster.

Risotto. The last time I could remember eating risotto was nearly six years ago, just as my eating disorder was beginning to manifest. I didn’t exactly recall what it was like, but I remembered the dish being pleasant. “It’s like rice,” I thought. “I eat rice. Rice is ok.” In my mind, the word “Mediterranean” meant “lighter, with olive oil.” I wasn’t prepared for the thick cream sauce that stared back at me when the deliciously aromatic plate was set on the table.

Commenting on the creaminess to Rachel, she gave me a, “Well, yeah. It’s risotto!” response, as if to say, “Duh! What did you think you were ordering?” Remarkably, I didn’t feel my tight knot of anxiety twist in my chest. All I felt was the cool breeze and the fresh air of the sunny afternoon. I took a bite of the chicken, and acknowledged that it tasted good. After devouring the rest of my beets, goat cheese, and arugala, I slowly and methodically explored my entrée. It was good. I could distinguish all of the flavors as I carefully nibbled away at the spinach, tomatoes, artichokes, and chicken. I dabbed the meat in the pesto that ringed the plate. I took tiny bites of the risotto, appreciating the texture and the taste. An errant thought about weight gain flitted across my brain, but I paid little attention to it. Another flutter of an idea about needing to exercise to work off this indulgence passed along without causing any significant distress. When I was at just the right fullness, I put my fork down, and I asked for a box.

As I drove home that afternoon, I puzzled over what transpired during lunch. It seemed like a blip or an anomaly. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. For an hour or so, I relaxed my rules and my firm grasp of control. It occurred to me that to continue my progress in recovery and to fully live my life, I might need to continue practicing this mindful surrendering.

I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with this looseness, this fluidity, this unguardedness. I trust my meal plan. I don’t trust myself. “What if mindful eating makes me fat?” I worry… … … What if it doesn’t?

white-house-daytime
White Concrete House Under Clear Sky during Day Time,” accessed from Pexels.com.

 

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7 thoughts on “Risotto Impromptu

  1. I love hearing your thought process. I think it’s good to be prepared and to eat where you are comfortable and satisfied.
    Can I ask another question?
    What if you do gain weight? Could that be ok? Could you never weigh yourself again and use mindful eating and how you feel to direct your choices? Or is that still too fluid….

    That’s what I try. I am not as thin as I once was, but I am healthy, strong and comfortable in my body. But I am also 45, with 2 kids. Perhaps aging has softened my defined body requirements. And I have been working towards this for years….

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They tweak mine and make me think!

    Anne

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a really thought provoking question, Anne, and it is something that still troubles me. It’s something I will be talking to my therapist about today, actually (again). I don’t own a scale and I haven’t known my weight for two years now, which I think has been an instrumental part of my recovery. I would be happy never knowing my weight again, but part of it is that I am still afraid to know the number because I’m afraid that if I know it will be triggering, so there is work to be done there, so that the number truly doesn’t have any power over me anymore.
      It took a huge leap of faith for me to trust my first nutritionist. I was convinced that I absolutely would gain weight on when I adopted the meal plan I currently follow… But then I didn’t gain. To eat mindfully and let go of my meal plan is maybe the next leap of faith, and I just don’t trust myself to be able to do it. I think that if I tried and gained weight, I would see it as my failure to eat mindfully more than my body’s natural healthy adjustment, because I am really not a mindful eater. I still “use” food, am overly rigid, and am either trying to control food or the food is controlling me most of the time, or so it seems. Anyway, that’s where my thoughts are today, but in a week maybe I will think differently. It’s always changing. Thanks for your great comment. I always love reading your comments and your posts. You really are a recovery role model for me! Thank you!
      Lulu

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      1. I am scared of the number too.
        Too many years of relating it to my self worth.
        I think that’s ok…some triggers will always exists.
        If our one quirk (lol) is avoiding scales I think we are doing great.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree! Thanks for putting this positive spin on it.

        I saw my nutritionist today, and she is not too concerned about my fear of gaining weight. She said she’d be worried if I was insisting that I wanted to lose weight. So, we’re still working on the fact that I just don’t trust *myself* with food, which seems to be a major underlying issue. Sigh. It’s a work in progress… lol.

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  2. This was great to read, I love the way you thought about each step and how it was okay. I want to be more mindful when I eat, and really notice the taste and texture of the food. I think this is important for people, even without an eating disorder. To not just stuff the food in, to take smaller bites and be mindful of it, and truly enjoy the experience. You’ve given me something to think about, and to practice! Thanks Lulu 🙂 Oh, that risotto sounds amazing! I love risotto!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your supportive comments, Jenny! The mindfulness with eating is really hard to do! I am so afraid of what will happen if I just leave myself to follow my mindful instincts when it comes to food. I don’t trust myself at all to be able to actually do it. But, I think that it is something that everyone can benefit from. I love this TED talk by a neuroscientist, Sandra Aamodt, on the science behind intuitive eating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn0Ygp7pMbA

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