My parents invited me and my sister to lunch. There wasn’t any reason other than my dad says he never gets to see us without our children distracting us and he wanted to just spend some time with us. It was today. It was nice.

It was also difficult. In part because it was today, a Tuesday, which is supposed to be my pure protein day, but there was no way to do that at lunch so I had to eat vegetables. I had a salad with grilled chicken on it and it was fine.

I also had a pot of tea while I ate, which seemed to curb my appetite a bit and kept me from eating too much.

My skinny sister ate a bowl of gazpacho and a chop-salad.

My mom had a salad with grilled chicken on it.

My dad had the same salad I did. Except he finished his.

We shared pleasant and relatively meaningless conversation.

It shouldn’t have caused me any distress.

But it did.

I fretted over what to wear. My clothes are still an issue. I have 8 outfits for work but they would have been too dressy for lunch. I have one pair of casual pants that aren’t jeans; they are a little too big but I made them work.

I fretted over what to eat. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do pure protein with a lunch menu and I tried to do the best I could, but I had to eat vegetables and even though I know I made the best choice I could under the circumstances I’m left wondering what to do the rest of the day. “Diet head” would tell me to just forget about it and keep eating veggies the rest of the day and the hell with the plan, get back on the wagon tomorrow. Of course, that’s what I always did when I was binging. I don’t want to get into “diet head” so I’m going to stick with my plan for the day and be done with it.

I also fretted over eating at all in front of my family. That may sound crazy, but it’s really hard to eat in front of them sometimes. I spent so many years knowing that people were scrutinizing what I ate. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want them to see me eat. Even when I’m eating something “healthy” like a salad I start going through this nonsense in my head that they are paying attention to see what I order and if it’s healthy (I ordered the same exact thing as my dad and basically the same thing as my mom and sister). Or how much dressing I’m using (less than my dad did on the same salad). Or if I’m eating too fast or too slow (I ate slower than my sister and faster than my mother). Or if I’m enjoying it too much (I don’t feel that I’m allowed to actually enjoy my food when I’m with them). Or how much I leave on my plate at the end of the meal (I’m the only one who left anything).

This kind of thinking is diseased. I spend the meal uncomfortable because of these thoughts. I have for decades. Twelve years ago when my husband started joining me for family meals I finally felt as though I had an ally. It only marginally helps. I still want to go home and eat again when it’s over.

Yes, my family have done things to make some of these thoughts justifiable. But not in nearly a decade. I’ve sorted much of the past out with my mother and I’ve really come to understand that she loves me, wants the best for me, has her own anxiety, is an inept communicator, and just can’t help herself sometimes. I love her. I forgive her. Actually, I forgave her a long time ago.

But I can’t let go of the way I’m haunted at meals.

Last night at bedtime I asked my husband why I can’t shake these feelings of inferiority about my sister and her body. He actually snapped at me, which he never does. He said, “I don’t know. She looks awful. You should be worried about her not thinking you should look like that!”

He’s right.

I obsess.

I need to move on.

I’m hoping writing this helps me move on.

I’m hoping that not messing with my food for the rest of the day because I was uncomfortable at lunch means I’ve at least begun moving on.

Even if I’m not all the way there yet.