Every weekend in The Age Sunday Life magazine, I read the ‘My Day on a Plate’ section. I read it first, and I make self-conscious scoffing noises every week. Apparently, every human being on the planet follows this daily routine:
- We start the day with lemon juice in hot water. (I look forward to future columns about our dentist bills)
- We adore untoasted muesli with natural yoghurt and ($8 a punnet) blueberries. Go you antioxidants go
- Occasionally (we should capitalise that, really) OCCASIONALLY we indulge in a skim-milk latte mid-morning.
- Somehow we have lunch prepared for us by a professional chef because it’s always lightly seared tuna steak with quinoa, raw grated beetroot and and light dusting of fear. Dressing on the side.
- Whereas most people I know have four dim sims from downstairs and three chocolate coated teddy bear biscuits and fifteen tomato salsa rice crackers and some of that slice from Emma’s going-away-afternoon-tea last week and a bottle of Diet Coke.
- Sorry about that. Ignore point 5. We’re back on track for afternoon tea, where we have a cup of sencha tea and a handful of raw almonds. No more than ten almonds. Usually five or six. No more than ten. Definitely not the whole bag. Because raw almonds aren’t very nice so why would we eat the whole bag anyway? Unless we were a bit bored.
- Right. So, at 7pm, when we were supposed to finish work at 6, we catch a train and get home by 8 and instantly prepare a perky combination of grilled chicken, more fucking quinoa, and some kind of colourful combo of vegetables (steamed) and a delightful squeeze of lemon if we’re feeling crazy. After all, it’ll be in our morning teeth-eroding drink so we may as well kick on.
- In no way after this virtuous day will we crack open the block of Fruit ‘n’ Nut our in-laws left behind and nip down to the bottle-o for another bottle-o.
So I wrote the above based on what I think normal people might be like. I don’t eat like ‘My day on a plate’, but I don’t eat like the above version either. I eat like a person who has an eating disorder. And I wanted to write a version of it based on me, at my worst, though I suspect it’s at the blacker end of black.
But what the fuck. My day on a plate has just as much right to be out in the world as green tea and quinoa.
First, a disclaimer: I do eat at relatively sustaining levels at the moment. However, this was my average day back in January.
4am: I wake up early because I’m pretty hungry; I haven’t eaten for 24 hours. I set my tea to brew and take off all my clothes (including my watch, rings and glasses), go to the toilet and then weigh myself naked. I note the number, but also note that I haven’t taken a dump yet today, so I am probably 200-300 grams heavier that I would be otherwise. Having an eating disorder means you know the weight of everything, including your average shit.
6am: I inhale a litre of tea while reading. My child wakes up and demands Rice Bubbles followed by Vegemite toast. Afterwards I stare at his buttery crusts and milky cereal. I place a single piece of bread in the toaster, look at it for a bit, and then abandon it to have a shower.
7am-12pm: 1.5 litres of water. I do a lot of shelving and counter work. I try to be as active as I can in the morning, because I’m less likely to pass out at that time of day, and it stimulates my metabolism.
12pm: I’ve been at work since 8:30am and when I stand up things are starting to swirl a bit. I chuck back four Tic-Tacs to attempt to kick up my blood sugar levels while I get the pickled cucumbers out of the work fridge. Pickled cucumbers contain 15kj per 30 gram serve. A piece of bread (also 30 grams) by comparison contains 305kj. If there was an anorexic supermarket it would have entire aisles devoted to pickled cucumbers, mustard and salt. Somewhere between the laxative aisle and the toothbrush aisle.
12:30pm: I’ve finished my allotted amount of pickled cucumbers. I usually have to sit down as much as I can for the rest of the day.
1pm-5pm: 1.5 litres of water. Everything gets a bit blurry. I won’t remember if you come to see me at the library or if I see that cat that looks like the cat I sort of adopted when we lived in Carlton that you hated because he woke you up at night howling outside your window and annoyed you and I didn’t know. Oh right, sorry, you’re not my old housemate, you just want to borrow a book.
5:30pm: End of the day. I’m tired and dizzy and I have to double-check before I cross roads. I take the train home, plough up the hills toward home. At some point I lurch sideways into a fence and it’s just another bruise.
7:30pm: My child is asleep. I don’t want dinner. I never want dinner. I have four glasses of wine (because alcohol doesn’t count as calories) and I type words onto a screen until my fingers hit all the wrong places and all the songs I listen to are too meaningful.
11pm: I fall asleep on the couch, wake around 2am and drag myself to bed.
I’ve struggled about how to end this. Flippant, caustic, matter of fact?
Matter of fact wins.
4am: I wake up. My limbs feel like they’re filled with sand. My heart is beating like a hammer inside my chest. I have to sit up slowly, stand up even slower. I hold onto the door frame. And the whole day, the same as every single day, begins again. I feel like I’ve been alive forever.