While eating snack today I realized just how far I have come since the beginning of my recovery. You see, like many people suffering from an eating disorder I had very rigid food rules and guidelines. I would never eat more then a certain amount of meals a day, or later then a certain time, or in certain situations. Not only that, but my food choices were very, very limited. I have exactly what I was “allowed” to eat written down in a diary that I kept from the beginning of my recovery. I don’t read it much these days but basically it was:
– Fruits (except for bananas which were off limits)
– Vegetables (particularly lettuce, cucumbers and spinach – a,k,a anything low calorie)
– Beans (but only ½ cup servings)
– Egg whites
– Oats (1/4 cup servings)
– Rice crackers
– Non-fat cream cheese or cottage cheese
And that was pretty much it. Occasionally the rare slice of dark bread or small serving of brown rice would find it’s way in there, but those occasions were few and pretty far between. The truth is there were so many foods I craved, so many foods I wanted to eat so badly I could almost taste them – but I couldn’t eat them. Why? Because of an unfounded, yet terrifying fear. Fear they would make me fat the second I put them in my mouth, fear that once I started eating them I’d never be able to stop, fear of the horrible feelings of self loathing and panic I would experience the second I had taken my first bite. This fear was so overwhelming that it practically controlled my entire life. And thankfully that all-encompassing, oppressing fear is no longer with me.
Overcoming this fear was a step by step process. During my hospital recovery I was forced to eat everything straight off the bat – or I would be force fed. White bread, sickeningly sweet desserts, French fries and full fat cheese – all these became a regular part of my diet. But forcing me to eat these things did not destroy my fear of them – it did little more then strengthen my resolve never to let them touch my lips again. Obviously this was not an approach that worked for me.
During my “home resovery” things progressed a lot slower. I started off eating more and varied foods- but was still completely terrified of certain ones. Cheese, chocolate, nuts, avocados – practically anything with a high fat or calorie content was still off limits. My diet, although more varied, was still severly lacking in healthy fats- things my body desperately craved.
Slowly, but surely, as I began reading more about health and nutrition. I started letting go of my pre-conceived ideas of what was “healthy” and began slowly experimenting with different foods. In the beginning it was tiny servings (think 5 almonds, ½ banana, ¼ an avocado). When I realized that these foods would not kill me and/or make me fat overnight I became more bold and started incorporating them in more and more. This actually went hand in hand with my letting go of calorie counting (you can read more about that here) and portion control. I started listening to my body and discovered that when I allowed myself to eat what I truly craved – those intense and often scary cravings disappeared. In their place I achieved a feeling of satisfaction and power over my ED. Fear no longer controlled me, and I was free.
Food was no longer something to be feared – but something to be enjoyed.
Another thing I had to let go of is the idea of a perfectly “healthy” diet. Such a thing doesn’t exist, but it made me into an obsessive person who would not eat anything that had a gram of artificial sugar in it, or some ingredient I didn’t recognized. It also made me sit out of any and all social occasions, because I wasn’t aware of what was in the food I was served. This mentality also took a while to break out of, but it was SO worth it. Again I took small steps- a bite of dessert, a little serving of wine, one chip. But slowly I became more confident and in doing so – much freer.
I am at a point now where I eat whatever I crave. I genuinely enjoy the clean style of eating, so I eat primarily healthy food. But ice-cream, chocolate, and a glass of wine are a part of my diet whenever I want it. I no longer fear healthy fats, in fact I quite enjoy them :P. And I enjoy my food, and the health benefits of eating a varied diet infinitely more than I did the supposed “control ” I attained during my ED. I still feel uneasy eating certain foods, but it’s an area of my life that I am constantly making steps of progress in. And it feels great.
Life’s too short to spend obsessing about things that really don’t matter all that much. What really matters are friends, memories and love – these things last a lifetime and are worth much more than the “perfect diet”.
Any thoughts on the matter?
Have you ever had any experiences with “fear foods”? How did you overcome those fears?