The Chocolate Cake Accountant
TW: Mention of calorie counting, ED imagery - A brief monologue of a person with eating disorder at a birthday party
There are 537 calories in a slice of chocolate cake.
352 when I scrape the icing off.
A calorie measures how much energy is required from the body to turn food into energy. I don’t understand physics or chemistry or whatever jurisdiction calories fall under, but I know there is a balance to maintain. Too many calories in a day over a long period, and your body will stop burning calories and instead turn them into fat. Instead of water overflowing from a glass when you pour too much water in, the glass gets larger. I don’t think that is an accurate analogy, but it made sense when my mom said it when I was 13. I remember her face as she explained moderation, a patient but concern look in her eye, and the poorly masked condescension in her tone. Of course, I understood what this science lesson was for - I’m not stupid.
Her concern was for the soft pockets of my body; the pillowy fat beginning to surround my stomach and arms. I didn't know to be ashamed until she told me I should be.
I find it funny; I come from a long line of accountants, people who dedicated their lives counting other people's money and advising them what to do with it. The more money a person has, it seems the more they matter. Accountants are, in a way, the impartial judge delivering the verdict of who is more intrinsically valuable to society. They don't know the role they play, but all that counting must add up to something.
It was only fate that I would become an accountant after that day - not of money, obviously. Counting calories is a currency more valuable to me than any tangible object. The difference between an accountant and myself is impartiality. Of course, I’m not impartial to the number of calories I consume. I think it’s fair to say the relationship food and I have is something akin to a benevolent dictator and their subjects. I control everything, I decide everything that goes into my body - oftentimes with the mindset that less is ideal.
So, the point? The point is, I am at my cousin's 5th birthday party, surrounded by laughing faces and confetti, counting. I am hyperaware of every sip of the “zero” bubbly drink I force down, every inhale of the sugary chocolate that sits in front of me. The point is the counting is not just counting. I am sick but no one seems to notice. Or maybe sick is amazing because that’s how I look to these people; everyone I know and don’t know. Strangers in the street and my aunts and uncles and my sister and the boys in my class. I think they must be sick too, in a way. A society sick on skinny and dieting and bones showing through papery skin.
The optimistic progression of my story is I find the will, the strength even, to take that first step. Take the bite of chocolate cake, icing, and all. Ask for help, delete the food tracking apps off my phone.
What really happens is I throw the plate away, face down in the trash and no one is offended by the waste of food. The truth is, I am perfectly content to waste away like this until I am nothing but a scrap of who I once was. When I walk into a room, the endless conclusions and judgments we make about each other, at least I know I’ll be the skinniest, my moderation so controlled I make even the most critical mothers proud. It doesn't matter that I will never enjoy a birthday party again, such is this illness.
The point is, please, eat the goddamn cake.