Hello hello hello! It’s been awhile and for that, I apologize. Life has thrown some busy weeks at me and between my real life job, writing on the side, my Instagram, this blog along with my partner and friends and family- I’ve had to let some things slide lately. I have been doing some writing lately- which you can read HERE and HERE if you’re interested but it’s nice to be back on my own page, where I can let all my silliness/not-always-making-senseness shine through.
This is a post I’ve been meaning to make for awhile- one that might have been helpful to me at the start of my recovery. Now before I start, I just want to say that I am still learning. This post hits on some of the principles of intuitive eating- but that’s an area I am constantly exploring. Even though I spend most of my days consuming content related to all inclusive wellness, intuitive eating and Health at Every Size, I am far from knowing it all. But if you’re interested, I fully recommend reading the book Intuitive Eating or if you’re podcast person, I highly recommend Christy Harrison’s Food Psych– it consistently blows my mind.
There was a time when I was so hungry, I literally couldn’t imagine that I would ever be full. That might sound a little nutty to people who haven’t experienced disordered eating, but it’s true. When I was deep in my restriction, I thought that if I let go of all my food rules, just let myself eat unrestricted around food, then I would eat it all and I would never stop. When I would celebrate holidays with my family and be surrounded by food that I craved so intensely, I would end up eating much more of it than I intended (usually while in the kitchen, where I would clean up- mostly as an excuse to eat straight from the dish). I would eat as much as I could while following my most lenient of rules. And I still never felt satiated. Those moments proved to me that I could not be trusted without strict guidelines. I thought that I would never be capable of being full- so instead, I never gave myself that full permission to eat what I craved, when I craved it.
For a while before I started my “real” recovery, I let myself have more/different foods- sometimes I would even have pasta! Or “regular” bread or red meat or a cookie! But there were still rules. And most of the time, I would take one or two cookies from a package and then let the rest get stale in my cabinet. There were still portion limits, times that it was “okay” to have them and times when it wasn’t- mostly, there were times when it wasn’t. Food was a minefield that I had to navigate; one wrong step and it would impact my future forever.
When I did immerse myself in recovery, I let go of all the rules. There was no more foods on my “cannot eat” list, there were no more rules about times or portions or number of meals or snacks. I just ate. And that is scary. It is scary to let go of our food rules- for so many people with disordered eating or with a history of dieting, food rules are what allows us to feel in control. They give us a false sense of safety, the idea that as long as we follow them, we can be “good”. So to let go of them is a huge and terrifying step.
I’m not going to lie: at first, it feels like you really will never be full. Rarely do you feel satiated in those beginning stages. But the most important thing you can do is keep going. Giving up at that point is just going right back to square one. It’s important to keep going and keep eating, without rules. If you’re hungry, it’s important to eat. If you can’t stop thinking about food, you’re probably hungry (read this from Caroline Dooner about mental restriction).
Here’s what I can tell you: at some point, you will start to be able to recognize your hunger/fullness cues with astonishing clarity. It may take awhile- remember that your body as been in starvation mode essentially as long as you’ve been dieting/engaging with your eating disorder. Just as you don’t trust it, your body doesn’t trust you either. It doesn’t trust that you will continue to feed it adequately. It is storing food because it doesn’t know if it’s going to be consistent. It’s not ready to send you those fullness cues because it doesn’t want you to stop eating- it wants to repair your body’s systems that haven’t been getting enough fuel for years. It wants to make sure your heart and your lungs and your digestive system have enough energy. It wants to get you your period back if you’ve lost it. Your body is going to burn through this energy at first because there’s so many things to be done and it doesn’t know how long this increased intake is going to last. Basically, this is a period of learning reciprocal trust between you and your body. It’s learning to trust that you’ll feed it; you’re learning to trust that your body is not suddenly going to implode if you start eating adequately.
During this time, you might have voices that pop up and tell you that you’re sabotaging your health, your diet, your life. Of course! Your eating disorder/diet is going to be pissed about this break up. They’ve had control of you for so long; of course they are going to want to rebel when you stop listening. And there will be times when their words will be seductive, where they’ll really convince you that you might be better off going back to them.
You won’t be. Going back to your eating disorder/disordered eating/chronic dieting will never make you happier. And it’s not something that you can negotiate with. You cannot be fully recovered if you still have a foot in diet culture. You just have to give it your all, baby.
But here’s the thing: if no food are off limits…if you’re done listening to the rules that unhealthy voice set for you…if you’re done restricting, weighing all your foods or measuring out every painstaking ounce…your body will tell you what you need. Really, it will. When you stop forcing your body to meet certain guidelines, it will tell you what it needs. Sometimes it’s a cookie. Sometimes it’s a salad. Sometimes it’s both or neither. It will take you awhile to unlearn everything diet culture taught you- and then to relearn how to listen to your body and give it what it needs.
But I promise that you can do it. We are all born with an innate sense of what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat. And as much as you might think you’re somehow broken, I promise that you’re not and that you can heal your relationship to food.
My plan is start posting about intuitive eating and Health at Every Size more often since there’s so much confusion around them- but also feel free to email me with any questions you’d like answered on the blog! Stay tuned- and in the meantime, follow me on all the things!