I have had a past of restrictive eating as well as a past of binge eating…. two extremes when it comes to eating. Either not eating at all or eating c.a 4000 in one sitting. Both are awful situations as well as mental states to be in.
Having an unbalanced relationship with food where you either don’t eat or you eat everything (or do both) is tiring mentally, physically and emotionally. It impacts your whole life. Your thoughts and your whole life revolves around food and your body image. You worry about food, your worry about your next meal, you worry about whether you will be forced to eat or whether you will be able to keep yourself to portion sizes only or if you will feel that mental trigger that makes you continue eating even past your own limits and hunger cues.
It is exhausting and it leaves you feeling terrible when you can’t eat normally.
I saw this post on tumblr a few weeks ago and it SCARES ME. It scares me that c.a 11000 people (of course i know it is not 11 000 unique people as some may have saved it, some may have reblogged more than once etc) agree with this…. that they go from not eating to eating everything. And the thing is that that is NOT a healthy relationship with food. To go from restricting to binging is not healty or balanced and it is not something that should be normalized. And it terrifies me that so many people can relate to that way of eating because that should not be a normal way of eating or normal mindset when it comes to food.
So how did i go from 2 extremes (at different times) to a balanced and normal intake and a healthy relationship with food?
It took time and something i had to work on for a long time. I didn’t just wake up one day and suddenly all my anxieties, triggers and obsessions around food were gone. Instead it was something i continuously worked on and the main thing i had to do was listen to my body. HOWEVER this is a progress. If you suffer from restrictive or binge eating then your hormones are most likely everywhere meaning that your hunger and fullness cues aren’t working as they should, not to mention that your mental fears and thoughts will impact your far too much to actually listen to what your body is telling you, if your body is even sending the right signals.
So my first recommendation is to seek help from a dietitian or nutritionist who can help you with a meal plan that is designed specifically for you. Don’t go to a PT who has done a 2 week nutrition course, UNLESS you know that they have successfully helped people who have had an eating disorder in the past. If you have serious problems with your food and it is not just “i eat a little too much” or “i have alot of cravings” or “i forget to eat” then i would go to a dietitian who works with eating disorders.
Your goal is not to eat according to a meal plan for the rest of your life, that isn’t so sustainable. However it helps in the beginning… it helps you to eat at regular time and helps you eat normal sized meals and both of these things are important whether you struggle from restrictive eating or binge eating. You need to find a regular eating pattern and to eat ENOUGH. Because when you don’t eat enough you will get more cravings and that can lead to binging, and then because you binge you resort to restricting and the binge-restrict cycle begins.
Over time when you feel that your hunger and fullness feelings are working as they should then you can begin to eat more freely. For example, change a snack or maybe you want rice instead of potatoes for lunch or maybe you want oatmeal instead of yoghurt. Or maybe you want to combine your snack and lunch or maybe you want an extra portion because you are extra hungry. Over time you listen more to your body and your cravings…. you realise that if you want a row of chocolate after your lunch that is ok and you don’t need to compensate for it later by not eating dinner. Or you realise that it is ok to eat a bigger breakfast and maybe eat lunch later on if you aren’t hungry at exactly 12pm. It is a learning process and sometimes you mess up and you overeat, but then you learn to NOT compensate the next day.
The first thing to do is structure up your eating to find more balance.
And while you are trying to eat more normally you work on the mental side of eating. I.e what triggers you to restrict or binge. Is it emotions? Stress? Anxiety? Worries? By finding out what triggers you it is easier to be prepared next time.
Example, if you find that stress makes you lose your appetite or makes you feel non stop hungry then you will be aware of this and then you will have to try your best to keep eating regularly and remind yourself to eat, or remind yourself to try to stick to portion sizes and meal times.
You begin to work with being ok with eating more, for example somedays you are extra hungry and you need more food. Maybe you are more active, maybe it is your hormones, maybe you haven’t slept so well… and you know it is ok and you don’t feel bad over it. You realise that food is energy and as long as you don’t overeat everyday it really isn’t that big deal.
You begin to see food as energy and not something you need to earn, compensate for or something that is just numbers that needs to be counted. You see it as fuel so that you can live life, work, study, do the things you want to do. You find a balance that works for YOU.
Overtime food is not something that should control you or something you should be scared of.
ALL OF THIS TAKES TIME. And getting professional help isn’t something to be ashamed about. Infact going to a dietitian and/or therapist and admitting you need help is something that is very strong. And also it shows that you are taking power over your life, knowing you are struggling with something but wanting to make it better and THAT is strength!!
You take one day at a time and work towards what your main goal is. You begin to trust your body even if that may require medicine or professional help, it’s not impossible to find balance. However everyone’s balance is different. People eat differently, some people like to follow a loose meal plan all the time, they like having a structure while others feel best when they just eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full… whereas others may need to follow a 5 meals a day plan to keep themselves balanced.
Also be aware of your triggers! This is the key to a successful balanced relationship with food. Learn to know what triggers you and what you can do to cope when they do happen!
If you want to read more about eating disorders or recovery advice you can look on my previous blog: posts about different recovery subjects HERE as well as my masterpost of recovery posts HERE. You can find more useful posts about depression, recovery, binging, purging, weight gain etc HERE