Thank you to everyone who submitted questions, I loved answering all 36 of them. For your connivence, I’ve separated them into five sections as sub pages under the FAQ tab: Fixing Your relationship with Food, Building Positive Body Image, Recovery Resources, Celiacs & Tummy Troubles, and Just fun stuff. Feel free to skip ahead. Take what you need and if you don’t see your question, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can add it!
If listening & seeing is more your style than reading, check out the video below for my five minute explanation about how to start fixing your relationship with food. Looking for more? Keep reading for the full length answers to your top questions.
1) How do you strike balance with going out – consuming liquid calories (alcohol) – and not feeling the need to restrict afterwards?
Like many young women, I learned to fear social situations for a long time, especially ones that included alcohol and might lead to spontaneous snacks or munchies. In my opinion, the best way to break this fear is to dive right into the cold water. Say yes to the gal pal who’s been begging you to come out, have a drink if that’s your choice or a milkshake if you prefer. It will be uncomfortable the first time (and probably the second time too). But chances are it will also be the most fun you’ve had in ages, the most free you’ve felt in a long time. And that feeling – the social element that us human beings are wired to be part of – is what I think of when I get anxious about liquid calories. It’s invaluable. Don’t miss out on any more of it.
2) What are your best tips for someone who wants to start changing their negative relationship with food?
I think the thing to do first and foremost is ask yourself if the negative relationship with food was in fact spurred by a desire to be thin, fit, etc. For 99% of eating disorder survivors, their unhealthy relationships with food and body image relate to control, or rather, a moment in their lives when something (anything) became out of control. Once you realize this, that it’s not a vain obsession you’re stuck with, it is easier to take on and change. From there I recommend deleting any calorie counting app you used in the past to track. You’ll probably re-download it at some point “just to check one thing” and keep it for awhile – that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Delete it again. Delete it as many times as you need to until it stays gone. Then be ready for your next challenge – not counting calories / tracking mentally. Because chances are you already have most of that database of nutrition facts in your brain. When you sit down to eat anything make a conscious effort not to think about the calories. You find your mind drifting that way? Bust into “Barbie Girl” lyrics in your head. Turn on a captivating show. Contemplate existence – anything you need to do to finish that meal / snack without counting what’s in it. It will feel forced and awkward at first. It will become natural. Introduce foods into your diet that you previously deemed “bad”. Do it regularly. Seek support on social media with hashtags like #selfloveandsoproud and #recoverywin. You don’t have to do this alone. Celebrate your successes with others. Above all remember that this is a process, a lifelong journey. You’re changing something ingrained, something you’ve grown to accept and exchanging it for freedom. That takes time.
3) How did you stop calorie counting?
I began by deleting my calorie counting app on my phone. The next morning I re-downloaded it again. Deleted it again, this time for a whole weekend. Re-downloaded again. This pattern went on for awhile. How did I finally break it? With a very, childishly simple strategy: one day at a time. Every day I asked myself if I could hold of re-downloading for one more day, just one more day, and told myself I could have it back the next day. Then I asked myself what would happen if I went just one more day. It was hard, really hard. But I did it like that for almost a month until I realized I didn’t feel the mind numbing anxiety to download it anymore.
4) What is your favorite food you’ve re-discovered since recovery?
Honestly, bread. So plain, I know, but it’s something I never “let myself have” when I was struggling with anorexia & orthorexia and I now eat some kind of bread (bagels, toast, sandwich) at least 2x a day.
5) How did you stop the food rules, specifically the need to eat at a specific time every day?
To answer this I have to get into Intuitive Eating and reaffirm for the 100th time that it is the best thing that ever happened to me. In life before IE, my food rule of choice was planning all my meals around exercise. Wake up, wait as long as I could to eat breakfast, workout for an hour, eat lunch after that workout, have one snack at 3 PM., etc. To break this cycle I had to re-learn my body’s natural hunger cues which had been destroyed along with parts of my metabolism. It took time. It’s different for everyone. The best advice I can give is eat when you’re hungry. Eat when something looks and smells good. Eat when you’re at a social gathering. Eat when you want. Don’t eat if someone’s forcing on you something that doesn’t taste good. Don’t eat if you’re full to the point of pain or extreme discomfort. That being said, these are just guidelines and your doctor definitely trumps me if they tell you different.
6) How do you strike balance with going out – consuming liquid calories (alcohol) – and not feeling the need to restrict afterwards?
I feared social situations for a long time, especially ones that included alcohol and could lead to spontaneous snacks or munchies. In my opinion, the best way to break this fear is to dive right into the cold water. Say yes to the gal pal who’s been begging you to come out, have a drink if that’s your choice or a milkshake if you prefer. It will be uncomfortable the first time (and probably the second time too). But chances are it will also be the most fun you’ve had in ages, the most free you’ve felt in a long time. And that feeling – the social element that us human beings are wired to be part of – is what I think of when I get anxious about liquid calories. It’s invaluable. Don’t miss out on any more of it.
7) Did you go through a binging phase when you began intuitive eating?
Everyone defines binges differently, but the short answer to this question is yes. Permitting myself to enjoy all foods after years of restricting the sweet, fatty, and fried stuff was liberating. I wanted to have it and I wanted to have it often. Sometimes I wanted the whole bag of something and letting myself have it was uncomfortable, but eventually my hunger cues and cravings leveled out. If you believe anything in this FAQ, believe that. If you stick with intuitive eating, you will not be forever hungry. You will not feel the urge to eat the whole bag of chips or even pint of ice cream every time. You will crave things like veggies and lean protein too! Your body knows best how to ask for what it needs, it just has to believe that you’re giving it that power back first.
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