I found myself in a relationship with one of the founders of Ben & Jerry, Ben Cohen, who has very little taste and no smell. When he and his partner, Jerry Greenfield, were developing their signature ice cream in the 1970s, anosmic-stricken Ben advocated the chunks. He became the texture taster, the one who would determine if the teeth could be satisfied even when the tongue could not. After three small spoonfuls, I put the ice cream back in the freezer, not allowing myself to have any more.
There are often competing forces at play in my recovery; the healthy side of me that recognizes that I need to eat more and that I want to indulge in the foods that I love, and the old eating disorder that tells me I shouldn’t.
The next day, family friends dropped off a casserole of homemade broccoli and cheese, coloring books for my kids, and a dozen grocery bags full of foods we love to eat: cinnamon and raisin bagels. sultanas, red grapes, smoothie mixes and more. I wanted nothing more than to enjoy the home cooked meal, which looked like something my mom would have cooked. I ate some, but not enough.
As our symptoms eased and our two-week quarantine ended, I began to see the effects of eating too little. I could see it in my slightly sunken cheeks, feel it in the contours of my hip bone, hear it in my stomach, moaning in the darkness of the night. I took a picture of myself and recognized that I was too thin. My husband noticed it too. He reassured me that my taste would return, and he reminded me how much traction I would lose if I got stuck in the backhand.
Over the years, I have had to change my perspective on what it means to be recovering. I used to strive for a “full recovery” – a life without slippages or setbacks – and I always felt like I had failed every time I failed. Now, I organize my thinking around what I call “the middle,” that sticky space between illness and full recovery. I make it a goal to continuously progress in this space – for myself, for my family. Recovery is about recognizing that I am in control of my choices, even when anorexia comes knocking on the door, pleading for another chance. During Covid, I opened the door a crack, but I finally closed it.
My sense of taste was gone for about five weeks, and once it came back, I started to regain my foothold and ultimately the pounds I had lost. The taste first appeared one morning when I was eating a banana; soon more flavors reappeared.
And then one Sunday afternoon I ate creamy tomato bisque and smelled, smelled and tasted every spoonful. There was the heat, the tasty tomatoes, the happiness of the basil.