The Devil in the Pantry

Christina Jumper
4 min readNov 15, 2020
Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

I stand in front of my cabinet and try to make a decision. I realize that the factors contributing to my ultimate choice are not normal.

When most people choose what to have for dinner, they ask themselves the following questions:

“Will this taste good?”

“Am I hungry for this?”

“What am I craving?”

“Will this make good leftovers?”

When I choose what to have for dinner, I ask myself the following questions:

“Is this expensive enough to dissuade me from purging this?”

“Is this easy to throw up?”

“What order should I eat things so I’ll be able to tell when I’ve got it all up?” (Many bulimics have a system — ie eating heavier items last so they don’t sink to the bottom of your stomach an become stuck cementlike, or eating a brightly-colored food like carrots or Swedish fish so as to be able to easily tell when they’ve got everything up.)

I am so stuck in my own head. I recognize that this dialogue is not normal; that it is toxic mentally, emotionally, and physically. If my friends spent just one day inside my head, they’d be terrified.

If I’m lucky, I can go the majority of the day without thinking much about food. Ok, that’s a lie. I’m always thinking about food. But as long as I escape my apartment unscathed in the morning, work is a good distraction. Of course, sometimes work is stressful. Or someone brings a fucking chocolate bar and one bite will send me reeling with my head in the toilet, hoping the fan is strong enough to mask my noises.

If I’m REALLY lucky, I’ll get home and make myself a healthy meal. Of course, “healthy” as far as I’m concerned is just another way my eating disorder fucks with my head. To me, “healthy” means “safe”. “Safe” means no oil, no fat, no sugar.

I know that the more I restrict what types of food I can have, I will eventually cave and binge everything in sight. I’ve done this countless times so I should really know better. I’ve charged hundreds of dollars to my credit card while stuck in a binge/purge cycle. Yet I never fucking learn.

I recently watched Inside Out, a Pixar film that was equally smart as it was adorable. It imagined that all of your separate emotions — joy, sadness, anger, etc — live together in your head and take turns “running” your life. They collaborate often and sometimes butt heads, but ultimately they want to keep their human host alive and functioning.

This film made me realize that each little choice I make can have major repercussions for my day, my month, my year. My life! Yet I still take every opportunity to gamble away my opportunities and then pretend to be shocked when I choose the wrong one to pursue.

This all sounds dramatic, but the example I have in my mind is hardly so epic. It happens every day, the moment I break my fast with whatever sad breakfast I’ve allowed myself to have. You have an avocado that’s about to go bad. You should really eat it with your tofu scramble this morning. Wouldn’t that be nice?

But I know that if I choose the avocado, I will have to deal with feeling satiated and full for my entire commute. This will decrease my self-esteem and make me anxious and cranky by the time I get to work. Which is when I see that someone has refilled the snack bin at work, and I’m the only one in the building. I make the decision to eat five granola bars in the span of 2 minutes. Why? Because I had the avocado, silly. See how that one simple choice led me to have bad day? This is proof that I can’t challenge myself safely. I need to abide by my eating disorder’s rules or else bad things will happen and I’ll disappoint myself.

How do you get the snowball rolling? How can I break the cycle and force myself to make GOOD decisions? I’ve been told it gets easier as you go, but it’s hard for me to hope for a future in which I select my snacks based on their taste, not their calorie count or how easy they are to purge.

I feel fucking insane. So alone. Trapped in the cruel cycle of needing and craving attention while simultaneously isolating and shunning all manner of support.

If I’m being honest, my worst fear is admitting to myself that my eating disorder/addiction is more important than any good thing in my life. I’m terrified of losing my last shred of logic and diving headfirst into a relapse that may very well kill me.

Basically, I want to want to recover. But it’s so scary. And most likely boring. What do normal people think about at meals? I’m afraid to find out because it might be messy. And I’ve had enough messy in my life.

By sticking to my eating disorder’s side, I have a secret. I have a distraction. I know how it will end. Yet I still choose the devil I know rather than take a chance at something with no guarantee.



Christina Jumper

writer. artist. anxious mess. cohost of pickles and vodka: a mental health podcast.