“More” is a pretty vague, general term. But it makes perfect sense for the purposes of today’s blog post because regardless of how much our eating disorders allow us to eat, “more” tends to always be met with reluctance. For someone who has been severely restricting his or herself to say, 500 calories, a day – just 300 more can feel insurmountable. For someone who has gotten comfortable with the same night snack of 1 tbsp of peanut butter and yogurt – more peanut butter can be terrifying. The point is that “more” is relative to you and your past, your journey, and your recovery. Today is all about discovering where you’re at mentally with food, what more means to you, and how to enjoy it guilt-free and without fear.
Why Serving Sizes Aren’t Actually Serving You
I once read an article, okay fine it was a Buzzfeed roundup, that said how the majority of Americans under-estimate serving sizes and in turn, end up consuming a lot more than they need. Well, eating disorder survivors and those of us in recovery tend to do the exact opposite. We have a habit of over-estimating our serving sizes and by effect, under-eating the amount of calories we need. If you’re trying to work through the fear of eating more, relying on already reduced servings sizes is not beneficial to you.
That’s why I recommend that anyone committed to fixing his or her relationship with food quit counting calories and ditch the measuring utensils. Unless you are explicitly instructed by your doctor to count calories or measure out a certain amount of food per your meal plan, it’s better practice to start eating without the constraints of numbers. Keeping in mind that you are more likely to lean towards the side of serving less than you need, make an effort to always add an extra scoop or piece to whatever you started with on your plate. For example, if you’re having some cereal for breakfast, pause after pouring your bowl and then add a few more shakes of the box. Adding a little at a time to each meal or snack is a great way to start getting comfortable with eating more regularly, not just in the evening for night snacks.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition!
Remember in elementary school when your teacher would introduce a set of vocab words, and the class had to practice writing each word 3x and its definition once? It seems tedious, but there’s something about repetition that drills a concept into the noggin. The same proves true for recovery, or any other skill your trying to master. It doesn’t matter if it’s spelling or learning how to be comfortable with food again – consistent practice makes perfect. And since I feel like we’re comfortable with one another here, so I’m not going to let you BS yourself. One or two fear food challenges a month is not consistency. Quite frankly, it’s not enough to only introduce new and more foods every once in a while and then fall back on safe habits. It’s like writing down your new vocab word once, then flipping two units backwards to study the old words.
If you dream of a day where sitting down to eat doesn’t feel like walking into battle, unknown calories don’t ever cross your mind, and food is just part of life – it’s time to start challenging your behaviors regularly. One of the biggest errors I see in recovery (hey, I did it too) is people eating very little throughout the day, and saving all their “extra” food for night snacks. I love a pint of B&J’s as much as the next gal, but in order to overcome the fear of eating more in all situations, you need to practice it throughout the day and not just at night. That means ordering the bigger meal than you’re used to when you’re out to eat with friends, taking a donut at work because someone was kind enough to bring them, and adding more to your plate when you’re on your own.
Trust The Process (But Also Question It)
Everything you experience and triumph over in recovery is a journey – and getting comfortable with eating more is no exception. It’s important to trust that you are doing the right thing for your body (and your mental health) and continue fighting. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask questions. Every time you sit down for a meal or snack and feel a triggering thought creeping in, I encourage you to acknowledge it and question why you have that fear:
Why does eating X make me feel Y? Can I think of 3 fears right now? Can I think of 1 good reason to challenge them? Who is someone I look up to who has a healthy relationship with food and his or her body? How can I emulate it?
These are the kinds of questions I ask myself when I’m having trouble with troubling thoughts surrounding food, and I return to them often. For your convenience, I’ve compiled the most helpful questions and the positive reinforcements that go with them into two worksheets. You can download them HERE or by clicking the button below. Print them out, screenshot them, take it with you. And whenever you start to fear eating more, whatever more means to you, refer to your checklist. Remember that you can do hard things and recovery is so worth it.