When you think you’ll never have a healthy relationship with food…

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.

Anyway.

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.

I know.

It’s scary.

 

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!

What is happening with my stomach?: The not-so-glamorous parts of recovery

A few weeks ago, I posted about my recovery journey and I got an influx of messages from people in recovery, people who want to recover, people who have a family member/partner/friend who wants to recover. And I got a lot of questions. But by far, the most common question I got was something along the lines of what the hell is happening with my stomach?

Stomach issues. No one gets through recovery without dealing with some sort of abdominal distress, constipation, gas, bloating, etc (that I know of). And obviously, these are not the most glamorous issues to talk about. Nobody loves talking about their bodily functions- except, of course, dietitians, luckily for you guys! So I’m going to dive into some of the most difficult parts of recovery that I went through as it pertains to my tummy.

Bloating

The big bad bloat! Bloating is by far one of the most common and most uncomfortable parts of recovery. Bloating starts on day one and many times, it doesn’t go away for months. Some of that bloat is tummy bloat of course. But it frequently, it can feel like a full body experience- and in some ways it is. Swelling happens because your body is trying to repair itself. Think of a sprained ankle. It swells while it heals. That’s what happens to your body- it swells while it heals. And by far one of the most common places damage has been done is the gastrointestinal tract. For many people who have battled eating disorders, you’ve spent years restricting/purging/abusing your digestive system. For those of us who had restrictive eating disorders, our digestive tracts are not used to processing foods- especially so many different foods that we are presented with in recovery. Our bodies have to work harder and to readjust to eating a mix of foods again. Same logic for those who have been purging- you’re now asking your body to do a different thing it isn’t used to. So it’s going to take some time for it to readjust. Be patient and keep eating. Whatever you do, do not think “Oh, I’m bloated so I’m just going to eat fruits/vegetables/’healthy’ things”- more often than not, those things are just going to increase your bloat. Your best bet when you’re feeling super bloated and uncomfortable is to stick to more processed, less fibrous foods. THIS POST by Amalie Lee explains it really well. Keep eating and it will get better!

Stomach Pain/Gas

Stomach pain is real during recovery. I dealt with it often. And I have the same general explanation as the one above. Your body isn’t used to everything that’s happening when you start eating again. Your digestive system is not used to working so hard- and oftentimes, the muscles have actually gotten weaker. It’s been on vacation for however long you restricted/used ED behaviors and quite honestly, it’s still a bit tired. Many times, it has to do with gas (oh the wonders of recovery). There’s a lot of gas in the first stages of recovery. There just is. Hopefully you live with people you can joke about it with; it’s much easier that way. The stomach pains and gas will go away, it just takes time to rebuild and strengthen those muscles. In my experience, it passes a bit sooner than the bloating. There are still particular foods that I restricted during my ED days that cause my a stomachache when I eat them- but those are few and far between compared to what they used to be like. Some tips for dealing with stomachaches:

  • Ginger or peppermint tea always help settle my stomach.
  • A warm compress- like these ones my sister makes over at Payne and Comfort (no, I did not intend for this to be an ad for her but I did use it a lot with stomach pain and still do).
  • Laying on my right side usually helps move some things around and makes me a little more comfortable.
  • Tracing the outline of my colon- stay with me here. I learned this from a dietitian I worked with during my internship, who said she learned it as a pediatric dietitian- but still useful for adults. Put you fingers on your lower right stomach, right above the hip. Tap your fingers all the way up to under your ribcage, across to the other side and then back down the left side. That’s the general area where your large intestine is and it usually helps move stuff through- or at the very least, it feels kinda nice and makes me feel like I’m doing something to improve my stomach aches.

Heartburn/Acid Reflux/Indigestion

This is something I dealt with a lot but honestly, it’s gotten better with recovery. I’ve always had issues with acid reflux, especially during my ED days, but it’s a common symptom during recovery as well. I don’t have a clear answer as to why this is but most people think it’s something to do with the fact that your digestion as a person in recovery is way slower than the average person’s- usually double or triple the average time it takes for someone to digest. Again, those muscles have atrophied and aren’t as efficient as they once were. They can get back there but they need to be exercised to get stronger- so think of every meal as a workout for your digestive system. They get a little stronger each day, but it doesn’t happen overnight (just like any other part of your body). However, because of this, food sits in your stomach longer and there’s more opportunity for heartburn/indigestion. It is uncomfortable- tips I have include more ginger/herbal teas, sitting upright for at least an hour after a meal, not drinking coffee/caffeine if I’m experiencing reflux already and avoiding alcohol while symptoms persist. Occasionally, I will take a Tums if things are really uncomfortable but I try not to rely on them too much- same goes with any other OTC heartburn remedy. These things will usually pass on their own, you just have to give it some time!

Diarrhea/Constipation

Saved the best for last! When you start eating more in recovery, you are most likely going to experience diarrhea and/or constipation at different points. When you first start eating again, your body more likely than not is not going to be able to figure how to process things right away so you may experience more bowel movements than normal. On the flip side, your sluggish digestive system may also be like screw this, I am not going to digest anything and you may end up constipated. Both of these things are normal, both of these things are okay, and both of these things will pass if you keep eating. One thing worth noting is that I had horrible constipation nearly my whole life. It was a joke with my family, my friends and my partner. So to all my sisters with constipation I feel you and I have been there. But since recovery, I have had maybe one or two instances of constipation, if that. I always thought that this issue was just genetic, just how my body was but it turns out it was a symptom of restriction. This was, by far, one of the best things that happened during my recovery as constipation literally plagued me before.

The bottom line is all of these things will get better. Be patient and keep going!

Have other questions you want me to answer? Send me an email [email protected] or leave a comment here!

in the meantime, follow me on all the things!

A Piece of the Puzzle (Recovery Thoughts Seven Months In)

Do you guys notice anything different about me? I’ve given myself a blog makeover and I gotta tell you guys, I’m loving it! I realized that my old format looks different on laptops vs phones vs tablets and sometimes made the font and layout different depending on your device so I decided it was time for some renovations. I also made some edits to my Facebook page and have been keeping up with my Instagram, as usual. Soon enough, I will get into the habit of tweeting but I’ve been off Twitter since my junior year of college so it’s a hard thing for me to get back into! Does anyone else have Twitter problems? I certainly do.

Anyways, the last month has been busy in the best kind of way. I’ve been settling into my own, all-mine apartment which still makes me feel like I’m on a vacation with myself. I’ve also been getting adjusted at work (side note: I love my job, I love my job, I love my job). I’ve been going for night-time walks, listening to lots of podcasts, watching lots of Netflix, rediscovering my love of cooking, reading, writing, exploring and generally just doing lots of things that make me feel fulfilled.

This past week marks my seventh month in recovery. Recovery hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind like it has been for the past few months. This is both good and bad- good because my life is getting bigger. It’s like my food and recovery and exercise thoughts were a thought bubble over my head that is slowly getting further and further away, crowded out by thoughts of self-care, writing, relationships and late-night ice cream endeavors. But in another way, I recognize that it may make it easier to slip into old behaviors and thought patterns if I’m not careful. So I’m being careful. Boy-in-a-germ-proof-bubble kind of careful. I try to make sure that I’m eating enough and taking care of myself and when I find that I have an ED thought or a body hate moment, I show myself compassion and gently direct myself back on the right path. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it’s not. It’s always worth it.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my recovery and my progress and my struggles. One early recovery memory has come back to me a few times over the past month. Let me just paint the picture here. It’s a chilly February morning. I’m driving to my internship at the hospital. Normally, this drive seems long and tiresome. Usually at this point, I’m already hoping that I would get out of the hospital a little bit early because the afternoon rut I always hit leaves me foggy-headed and exhausted. But this day in particular, I found myself singing along to the radio in my car. And this is not my normal, quiet kind of singing that I do so often with the folksy, sing-song-y music that I’m usually listening to. This is full-on, body-moving, running-out-of-breath singing along to a Taylor Swift song that came up on my iPod. I was bouncing around and then laughing at the silliness of the whole situation- actually laughing, out loud, at myself.

It wasn’t until later that week that I realized why that moment felt so refreshing and real. It was because for the first time in a long time, I actually had energy. I was actually meeting my body’s needs and not using all my energy on an extensive work out in the afternoon. My body was actually being taken care of in a way it hadn’t been for years. I was dancing, shaking, moving, singing in a beautiful, revitalizing way without realizing what a wonderful accomplishment that was in and of itself. It took me days to realize that that silly, happy moment was actually representative of the progress I had made.

That is what recovery is like.

As I move further along into my recovery, I find myself passing these milestone moments and not realizing until later. Not even always milestones- just moments that show how much progress I’ve made since I started this process. In the beginning, everything was a big THING. A few weeks into recovery, I went out for a milkshake-and-french-fry snack in the middle of the day. MILKSHAKES. In. the. Middle. Of. The. Day. This is groundbreaking stuff people. And it was a THING. All day, I thought about this huge recovery win. And it was. In the beginning everything was a huge win and I don’t have any regrets about that. In the beginning, these things need to be celebrated and it is something to be excited about. Beating those fear foods becomes an event and that is a-okay with me. Making a breakfast date with my partner (can I start just calling him Charles now? Yes? Good!) specifically to eat French toast was understandable and it was exciting. But now, the focus has come less off the food and more on the living.

I still have recovery wins- when I have an unexpected afternoon snack, when I bought Oreos for the first time in years last week (!!!), when I let myself lay on the couch after

work and just be lazy, something that my ED would have never allowed me to do. Last weekend, I went to a lake house in Maine with my Charles’ family and his grandfather made sausage and biscuits for breakfast, which Charles has told me about multiple times over the past few years. And instead of making myself something else for breakfast (even though I really wanted the biscuits) or eating it and having a fit of anxiety later or denying breakfast altogether, I was able to enjoy the moment with his family and eat. No guilt, no shame, no anxiety. I was able to engage in life without feeling trapped by my eating disorder. (PS later that day, I had a cookie straight out of the oven when his grandmother offered me one- two wins in one day!)

These things are still exciting to me- how could they not be after the box that my eating disorder trapped me in? But they’re not the only things I think about anymore. I’m learning to live a much bigger life and embrace all the bumps and the laughs and the changes and the anxieties and the beauty. I try to show up to this life and engage in it as much as possible. And through all this living, I sometimes forget to celebrate all the things that would have made me through myself a small party in the past. But that’s okay, too. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Rather, I accept those things as part of this new, happier, healthier, greater life I’m living. A piece of the puzzle.

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The Aftermath of Anorexia

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you start your week of with clarity, energy and peace. Linking up with Julia over at Drops of Jules for this post- finally! I’ve been meaning to do it for months now and I’m just getting around to writing a relevant post. Cheers to quiet evenings!

For most of my readers, you know that I struggled with anorexia and excessive exercise for over 6 years. About 6 and a half months ago, I started my path to recovery and it’s made all the difference in the world. But anorexia refuses to forgotten so quickly and has left her mark all over my life and all around my body. There’s many, many physical effects from anorexia and there’s just as many in recovery- digestive issues, night sweats, swelling. I could go on for days (and maybe I will in a future blog post. Because there’s SO many strange things that happen to your body when you start treating it well after years of abuse).

About a month into my recovery, I started having terrible knee and hip pain. A couple weeks after that, my feet started aching so bad I had to hold myself up on the railings when I went down the stairs in the morning. I’ve recently started adding exercise slowly back into my life in small ways; mostly walks and a little bit of yoga. The one day I did try to run, my knee pain was so intense I had to stop after doing less than a tenth of what I used to do.

I recently had a physical to ensure that my health was improving as I recovered. I asked my doctor about my knee and hip pain and was referred to an orthopedic doctor. I was diagnosed with bursitis in my hips, femoral patella syndrome and told my knee caps were out of alignment. The results of six years of running several miles every single day, only taking a day off every other week or so. The results of abusing my body in the same way for days on end. I was told that in order to run again, I would have to avoid stairs and bending my knees, wear a brace, and complete 6 months of physical therapy. It hit me hard hearing that I may not ever be able to run the way I used to. I don’t mean in the obsessive, exhausting way that I used to. I mean in the days before the disorder- the days when running meant anxiety relief and freedom. When running was just a way to connect to the Earth and clear my mind. Knowing that I might not ever be a runner again struck me in a way I can’t quite explain. And then again a few weeks later, I got more news.

Last week, I got the results from a bone density scan that I had done late in July. My doctor told me what I had been half expecting but fully dreading: I have severe bone loss and am right on the border of osteoporosis. At 23 years old, I have the bones of a 70-year-old woman. Needless to say, the news shocked and devastated me. My first reaction to think about what this could mean long term. All I could picture was myself at 40 years old, hunched over and going through life with an unnecessary amount of pain. I thought about how hard it is to get pregnant with such serious nutrient deficiencies and how my body likely isn’t healthy enough to get pregnant anyways. I’m certainly not trying to have kids right now but my goal in life has always been to be a mother. I know I’ve already put any future pregnancies at risk and made conceiving harder for me; this news just added fuel to the fire. I thought about the back pain I’ve had for years and how I could have avoided all of it. And I thought about all the things I could have done to avoid this whole situation altogether.

It’s hard not be mad at myself when I hear things like that. I mean, how could I not be? I’m in such a good place- I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. And to have all the years of my eating disorder and exercise obsession coming back to haunt me six months into recovery…well, it just wasn’t the news I wanted. Luckily, there’s ways to reverse some of the bone loss. Women typically build bone until age 30, although it slows down after your teens and early 20s. It’s so, so important to eat enough to give my body enough  energy to rebuild bone and of course, there’s foods that contain some of the nutrients needed to restart that bone growth. I’m seeing a specialist and am committed to doing everything in my power to reverse what I can. And even though there is a chance it will never be reversed, I’ve decided that the best strategy is to pick myself up from here and keep going; there is no point on reflecting what I could have done differently. It is what it is. My only option is to keep going and do everything I can to help myself.

I share all this for a few reasons. First, for awareness. It’s easy to live in your eating disorder and think that you’re not “sick enough” to have any of the long term side effects. I certainly felt that way and from what I’ve heard from other people in recovery, feeling “not sick enough” is a pretty common trend. But here’s the thing: “not sick enough” doesn’t exist. If you’re engaging in eating disorder behaviors, then you are sick enough. End of story. There’s the very wrong perception that only skeletal woman can have side effects like that and it’s simply not true. I was underweight but not wildly during my eating disorder days. I never felt like I was really “anorexic” (and I denied it vehemently when my therapist and doctor called it anorexia). I never felt like I was that sick. And yet- the proof is all around me. I did serious damage to my body during that time without ever thinking it would happen to me.

Second, to say to anyone with an eating disorder or anyone engaging in behaviors: SEEK HELP. It’s so dangerous. You are sick enough and you are worthy of help. And if you’re in recovery or even recovered: see a doctor and make sure that you’re healthy! Ask questions. I almost didn’t even ask for a bone density scan; I figured that the doctor would order one if he was concerned. But because I have a nutrition background and knew the risks, I asked for one and even though I didn’t get the results I wanted, I’m glad I asked. Everyone deserves help.

This post isn’t meant to discourage anyone but to shout out into my tiny corner of the universe about how IMPORTANT it is to seek recovery. Anyone with disordered eating deserves a healthy relationship with food and a healthy, fully-functioning body. And everyone, no matter who you are or what you’re history, deserves a healthy and happy life. Seeking help, no matter what for, can only help us achieve that goal.

I’m so thankful for the recovery community that has encouraged me and reassured me during the last few weeks. If you’re not already following my Instagram, check it out HERE and sign up for my email list on the sidebar! You’ll only ever get emails when I post new things. And if you’re in recovery or seeking body positivity or just a good conversation about life, I am available always at [email protected]  Enjoy the upcoming week all!

Being alone vs being lonely (aka how to be your own best friend)

There is a profound difference between being alone and being lonely, between solitude and loneliness. As many of you probably know or read by now, I just moved into my first big-girl, all-mine apartment. It’s my first time ever living completely on my own, without anyone to share my space with. I’m not going to lie to you guys- I’m in love with my apartment. I love how cozy it is, I love the big windows and natural light and the back door with my own little space outside. I love that I can put my stuff wherever I want, I love that I can eat whatever I want for dinner, I love that I can leave my dishes in the sink for the night if I want to.

I’m basically on a honeymoon with myself.

Being alone is wonderful. Over the past few years, I’ve become far more introverted than I was in my teens. I like nights to myself. I would prefer wine and Netflix to a bar any night. I would rather have dinner with a couple close friends than go to a party. I don’t really enjoy getting dressed up to go out and I would much rather be in sweatpants (or more accurately, no pants).

But being lonely is dreadful. My eating disorder days were filled with loneliness. Loneliness that had nothing to do with how many people were in my life or how many people loved and supported me. My loneliness had nothing to do with being alone. In fact, most of my loneliest days were days when I was living with friends, roommates, family. As cliche as it is, some of my loneliest moments were in crowded spaces.

My loneliness came from somewhere much deeper and much more profound. The kind of loneliness that makes your heart hurt. The kind that’s a combination of nostalgia, sadness and something else that I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on. I’ve felt it all throughout my life; I remember being sick when I was younger and having that feeling growing in the pit of my stomach. That kind of loneliness didn’t visit me much during my childhood or my teenage years for that matter, but it came back full force when I was in college. Part of it had to do with homesickness, I am sure. But a much bigger part had to do with the fact that I felt like there was a hole I couldn’t fill. I felt unfulfilled, dejected and sad. For all the friends I had, I still had a empty space inside me that I could not fill. It took me several years and many therapy sessions before I realized that space can’t be filled by anyone except me. I’ve worked very hard to fill this space and I’ve done a good job, but that kind of loneliness is still so fresh to me. The feeling that it left with me lingers around like smoke after a bonfire. It’s hard for me to fear it coming back.

BUT. Since I started recovery, I can see that space filling back up. I’ve been working on doing things I’m passionate about and things I enjoy doing. I’ve been spending time with my friends and family, going for spontaneous ice cream dates, filling my days with books and writing and relaxing. I’ve began enjoying food again, savoring meals with the people I love. For goodness sake, I ate a THREE COURSE MEAL on my birthday last week after an afternoon snack of Ben & Jerry’s, what? Recovery Meghan is AWESOME and so much happier and more fulfilled than pre-recovery Meghan.

Recovery me is learning to love herself, which fills that hole inside me more than anything. I’m learning to be my own best friend. Not because I don’t have wonderful, beautiful best friends/soul sisters/actual sister (because I do) but because I’ve relied on people for my sense of contentment for far too long. I find my happiness in making other people happy, which is not inherently a bad trait. But as I’ve been forced to learn in my life, putting people’s needs before your own does not lead to long-term happiness or gratification. So I’m taking awhile to see what makes me happy, what I like, why I do what I do and think what I think and to explore what I really want from this big, grand, wonderful life.

Living by myself for awhile is my way of being a little bit selfish, which I’ve always had a very hard time doing. It’s my way of taking some much-needed time for myself.  It’s my way of being my own best friend and putting myself first. So I’ve been going on best friend dates with myself- to the coffee shop, to the beach, to get ice cream. I’ve been learning how to keep myself company in a way that feels kind and genuine and not like I’m being a total jerk to myself like I used to be. I’m alone, but I’m certainly not lonely. I know I have supportive and beautiful and loving people on my side and I’m grateful for that but I’m also grateful for some time to myself. Here’s to coffee dates, lots of ice cream and no pants ever.

Some best friend dates I’ve had with myself this week. Ice cream the size of my face after my first day of work (coffee kahlua brownie, yes please), some beach time and lots of coffee always.

Questions:
Do you like being alone?
What’s your favorite thing to do by yourself?
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Fear Foods in Eating Disorder Recovery

Today we’re going to talk about FEAR FOODS.

Fear foods. I can almost guarantee that anyone with a history of disordered eating has experience with fear foods. Fear foods are the foods that, during restriction, you may avoid avoid with every fiber of your being. If you’re a binge eater or in a binge/purge cycle, these may be foods that have caused you to binge in the past.  You may think these foods are going to derail your health. You may think these foods are instantly going to add 10 pounds to your body. You may think these foods are going to cause an unavoidable, never-ending binge. You may think these foods are going to totally unravel your life and ruin your chance for happiness

Guess what?

They’re not.

Food fears differ for everyone- for some people, it can be pizza. For some people, it can be ice cream or bananas or potatoes or candy bars or milkshakes or pasta or pretty much any food out there. For the years I restricted my eating, my fear food list was long and extensive. I avoided a lot- almost all desserts, pasta, packaged foods, pastries, juice, pizza. I could go on and on.

When I started recovery, I made a list of all these foods and went about crossing them off one by one. My first big fear food win was ordering banana stuffed french toast when I went out to breakfast with my partner. I was anxious, of course, but having someone who loved me there as a source of support was immensely helpful. A few weeks after that, him and I went out for a mid-afternoon snack of McDonald’s fries and vanilla milkshake. Up until that point, I simply could not have imagined a time in my life where I could snack on fries and a milkshake. A “snack” like that would have caused me to restrict for days. It would have immediately caused a surge of guilt and shame that would have swirled around and consumed me like flames in a fire. In the beginning of recovery, these wins took a lot of effort, a lot of strength and took up a lot of mental space.

A few weeks ago, my boss (conveniently my sister) brought in donuts for a staff meeting at work. Guess what? I ate one and thought so little of it, that it didn’t occur to me that I had eaten a fear food until later in the day. I was on a walk on my favorite trail when it occurred to me and I nearly laughed with joy when I realized that if that happened a year before, I would have been running on that same trail to “work off” the donut I had eaten earlier in the day. In fact, it was such a non-event that I didn’t even stop to take a picture like I normally do when I have an ED win. It was simply not a big deal.

Last week, my sister and I made a plan to go shopping. She asked me if I wanted to grab lunch before. A year ago, I would have made up every excuse so I wouldn’t have to eat out. I used to dread eating out. I used to despise lunch and think that only certain foods could be eaten at certain times of the day. But that is also immensely false. There is no reason to fear eating at certain times. There is no right or wrong time to eat.

My point here is this: fear foods exist for most people with disordered eating or lifelong dieters or binge eaters  or anyone who has ever been on a diet. There’s usually some foods that are labeled “bad” or “off-limits”. But the truth is that no foods are bad. No foods are good. All foods have nutrients in them- the amounts and the types vary but every food you eat offers your body something. And your body needs different nutrients all the time- and sometimes it needs food for the soul, not just for the physiological need of keeping your body alive.

No foods should be feared. No foods should be labeled “good” or “bad”. All foods are food and that’s that. All foods can be eaten at all times. All foods can be eaten without compensating with restriction or exercise. All foods can be eaten without compromising your health or your idea of health. I eat (full-fat, full-sugar) ice cream nearly every night and I am arguably the healthiest I have ever been in my life. I ordered pizza at dinner the other night just because I felt like it- it was delicious, satisfying and in that moment, the healthy decision for me.

 

The bottom line is that all foods fit. There will be times in your life you crave the foods that are considered “healthy”- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc etc. There will be times in your life that you crave the foods that are considered “unhealthy”- ice cream, chips, sugary cereals. And that’s okay. That’s life. And guess what? Your body knows what you need even if your mind disagrees.

In fact, just this morning, I was perusing Whole Foods before work. I was still a little hungry after my breakfast and discovered chocolate chip hazelnut biscotti in the bakery section. Immediately, I thought that I couldn’t have that so early in the day. I walked around trying to find something else that would fill me up but be “healthier”, my ED voice momentarily taking over before I realized that there was nothing else I really wanted. I marched myself back over to the bakery, grabbed a biscotti and ate in my car with my coffee before work. And guess what? It was great- there was no guilt, there was no compensation, there was no nothing except for delicious biscotti goodness. I tell this story for two reasons: 1) your body knows what you need (really it does) and 2) you may still struggle with fear foods long after you start recovery. I’ve been in recovery for almost 6 months and my ED voice still pops her head in every now and then to tell me to restrict or to choose something “healthier” And that will happen at some point to most people in recovery. No one chooses to recover and is immediately better. That’s just not the way it works. But conquering fear foods is an essential part of recovery and it is something that is worth fighting for.  I challenge each and every one of you to eat something that scares you, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that you may not “allow” yourself to eat. If you feel so inclined, write about it in the comments below- I want to hear!

Wishing you all a happy week ahead!

Questions:
Do you have any fear foods?
What helps you to conquer fear foods?
Any plans (good or bad) for the week?

July Favorites: Link Love

Hello and happy July to all! Can you believe that it is officially halfway through the year already?! I sure can’t. July is one of my favorite months because it’s warm but also because it’s birthday month, baby! Hopefully by then,

Before I get into my favorite reads of the month, I’m going to take a minute to shameless promote something I wrote this week. For those of you who listen to the Recovery Warriors podcast (and you should), you know that every month there is a different challenge to strength your recovery muscles. This month, the challenge was to find and create 4 different recipes throughout the month. I participated in this challenge, as I do every month, and wrote about my experience HERE. Plus if you read it, you’ll get a recipe to a delicious spaghetti squash bake!

Enjoy the reads everyone and let me know what you think!

What does healthy even mean?
THIS is awesome. This is so good guys. Seriously. Written by another RD and I swear, I want to print it out to keep in my office some day because it is so real. If you read any of these, read this one!

This Comic Strip on Privilege will Humble You
I see this circulating around this internet quite a bit but it’s so, so, so important. Privilege exists whether people want to acknowledge it or not- it’s not good or bad but it is real and people acting like it doesn’t exist keeps us stuck in a dangerous place.

Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person
This article GETS me. This is me 100%. I used to think that being overly sensitive was a bad thing and some people certainly think of it as a weakness, but I’ve definitely learned to embrace mine.

The Reason Your Intuitive Eating Won’t Work
I think intuitive eating is great. But it’s very easy to convince yourself your “intuitively eating” when you’re really restricting your eating. It takes a long time before you can get to truly intuitive eating. Also, I really love Caroline Dooner so I’m on top of any opportunity to share her work.

The not-so-secret truth about emotional eating
Everyone emotional eats. You feel emotions every minute of the day. You also have to eat multiple times a day. You can’t separate the two. And everyone’s end all emotional eating embargo isn’t helping anyone. Read why it’s really not that bad after all.

Why processed foods aren’t as bad as you think
I love Christy Harrison and I love this article. I’m so over everyone’s endeavors to cut out all “processed foods”. I understand not wanting to eat frozen meals and Chips Ahoy every night (although it’s totally okay to do that), but avoiding all processed foods in our day and age is nearly impossible. Give it a read, particularly if you’ve ever thought that eliminating processed foods is the answer!

HAPPY JULY and happy weekend to you all! Hope you all have a lovely 4th of July!

One Year Later

One year ago yesterday I started this blog and one year ago today I moved to New Hampshire for my dietetic internship.

So much has changed in a year.

At this time last year, I wrote a blog about living in the transition and as fate would have it, I’m in the same position again. I’m living in the transition between the end of my internship and the beginning of whatever is coming next.

Since last year when I started this blog, I have….

Started my dietetic internship.

Finished my dietetic internship.

Become a Registered Dietitian.

Started the recovery process.

Discovered (and joined) the body positive community.

Started a recovery Instagram and gained a lot of friends and support that way.

Found the things I’m really passionate about like sustainable food systems, food security, eating disorder recovery, body positivity, the Health at Every Size movement and so much more.

Moved back home (which isn’t as sad as it sounds because my parents are super cool).

Strengthened the relationships in my life.

Gained a whole lot of happiness.

I thought I was recovered last year, really, I did. I thought that I was recovered as I was going to get. I thought I was just going to be the kind of person who would always have to carefully watch what she eats. I couldn’t even imagine a time where I would not have to run every day. I couldn’t imagine a time where I didn’t feel guilt after eating. I couldn’t imagine a time where the goal wasn’t to eat as little as possible. I was stuck in a quasi-recovery without even realizing it.

Last year at this time, I isolated myself because hanging out with friends usually meant food or drinks or skipping workouts and all those things scared me. I was exhausted all the time, I was grumpy, I was irritable, I cried most days of the week. And the saddest part of all was that I was going to accept that as the way my life was going to be.

In the fall, I went through rotations at a dining hall, I taught health classes to elementary school kids, I worked at the NH Food bank. I was exhausted all the time, I was working a lot, not eating nearly enough and running myself into the ground at the gym every night. I cried on the way to work in the morning and I cried on my way home at night.

This spring, as I’ve shared before, I started recovery from anorexia and I’m happy to say I haven’t turned back. The road to recovery is bumpy and I struggle at times, but it is so much better than the alternative.

My life was heavy at this time last year. I was weighed down by shame, anxiety, guilt, insecurity. These days, my being is filled with an inexplicable lightness. It’s a new feeling, one that I haven’t felt in years. One I welcome with open arms. I laugh more. I cry less. I’m less scared of everything. I have better relationships with people. I have a better relationship with my boyfriend. I’m less anxious. I wake up grateful in the morning and I go to bed grateful at night.

I’m so thankful for my life, for the progress I’m made and for the people who continue to read this blog and follow along on my journey. I’m thankful for all the people who reach out to me, whether it’s to ask advice or to tell me that I’m an inspiration (something that humbles me every time someone says it). I can’t thank you all enough for the support you’ve given me this past year. I never imagined I would tell my story to the world, but never have I ever regretted it. I’m thankful everyday for the wonderful community I’ve immersed myself in. I don’t know what’s coming next for me as far as my career or location goes but I’m also not going to stress myself out about it. Whatever comes will come and I’ll be ready for it when it does. For now, I’m going to keep living this crazy, wonderful, beautiful life.