The living bread which came down from heaven

I never skipped tea entirely or reduced it to a tokenistic scrap. Tea was my daily goal. Anticipating it was what kept me staggering through the day. The satisfaction of it. But I did make sure it was always a little less than I needed. I disguised the diminutive size of my portions by specialising in stews and curries and veggie-heavy stir fries (and salads) – various meats or pulses or tofu in sauces, that people usually eat with a separate portion of carbs: rice or potatoes or bread. A good, well-seasoned and spiced sauce allowed me to dramatically reduce the amount of proteins and fats I was using without anyone noticing, partly because I’d serve Jo what little substance there was and leave myself with only sauce.

My curries and stews were alright, although a little watery because I couldn’t ever thicken them. Flour is an utter bitch, calorie-wise, as you know. With such messy meals, I could make my plate look misleadingly substantial because I learned how to bulk it up with vegetables. Nearly any curry will benefit from spinach wilted in at the end.

We’d supplement this with bread, which also helped Jo stay nourished, because she could give herself as much as she needed. Bread was the one carb I never abandoned, either. I think the apparent austerity of dry bread beguiled my anorexia into assuming it was less sustaining than it was. Still, I specialised in unsliced loaves. After a couple of days, I could slice them so thinly you could glaze your windows with them.

Though thin, this bread is what kept me alive. My relationship with it was remarkably uncomplicated for an anorexic: I hungered for it. All the time. I suspect most of my thoughts were about buying bread, baking bread or eating bread, of the different types that could be bought or made: pumpernickel, rosemary and apple, fennel and raisin rye, seeded wholemeal sourdough…

It was lunches that I really cut back on, to enhance the appetite for tea, the big pay-off. I was at work, most days, and so could avoid the scrutiny of my family. I’d keep pushing it down and pushing it down. It was another trial of strength to try and convince myself that I had strength. Once it had occurred to me to chuck away half my sandwich, I’d come back and back to that thought, dithering and dithering, knowing I should resist the urge to resist the urge to eat it, until I’d suddenly, impulsively, chuck it in the bin. Then I’d feel an exhilarating liberation from the dreadful indecision, a sense of empowerment…

I always maintained a vestigial stump of lunch, though: 100 calories or so, for form’s sake.

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