When it’s necessary to make exceptions.

 

Life is about flexibility – there are always new situations around the corner,  unexpected decisions ready to jump out and surprise us, and unplanned happenings. With time we all learn that nothing goes 100% according to plan, no matter how much we would like it to. We can’t always control the situations around us, there’s no sure-fire way for making sure something works out. All the remains is to wake up each morning, not with a sense of fear and dread, but with a sense of excitement and eagerness for the new challenges life will present us with.

I used to be very rigid in my food rules. Recovering from an ED means I’ve had to part with a lot of food rules. There was a time in my life that eating had NO spontaneity in it. I knew days in advance what I would eat, at what time, how many calories were in it, who would be around when I ate it etc. Even typing this out is difficult for me, because  its so sad to look back and see how bound and controlled I was by this horrible disorder.

Recovery has been a process of letting go of all these rules and regulation. Some things were easier, others took longer, but I am now proud to say that most of these aforementioned restrictions are no longer a part of my life. An old habit will creep up now and then, but I try my best to recognize these thoughts when they come in, and stop them before they have a chance to take a hold on my mind once more.

I believe 100% in healthy eating and living. I believe both of these components are essential to a productive and happy life. I believe that what you fuel your body with has a direct connection with how it will work for you, so it is worth it to put some time in effort into ensuring you have the right “tools to do the job”.

On the other hand, sometimes life has a way of putting us in unexpected situation where we CAN’T keep up with our health ideals. Let’s say the food we are used to eating is not available, or we are put in a situation where we are expected to eat something that isn’t entirely “whole food”. And then we are faced with a dilemma – what to do? Will it do our body more good to just skip the fuel all together, or is it better to make an exception?

I’m definitely more in favor of the second option. I think your body won’t suffer horribly if you eat a slice of white bread once in a while, or have a bit of cream in your coffee. You might even have to eat cheese if it’s the only thing available, or skip on your  regular salad. But my theory is that your body won’t really tell the difference if you eat white bread over whole wheat ONCE, but it sure will let you know if you skip your fuel all together. A few hours later you will feel tired, cranky and lacking in energy. So although we should strive for healthy living, there needs to be an element of flexibility as well.

If a dessert is offered that is made with white flour and sugar, it won’t kill you either, particularly if it’s socially inappropriate to refuse (cake at a wedding perhaps). Sometimes being so rigid in your food beliefs has consequences other then just physical ones. Food and meals in our culture is so much more then the process of providing your body with energy – it’s used to bond, to celebrate, to welcome, to appreciate, to get aqainted and so much more. Missing out on these vital elements of life just because of rigid food rules just isn’t worth it.

This weekend I had to make several exceptions to my ideal “health standards”. I ate a soup with white pasta (the horror) because it was what I was served at my internship. I ate a slice of white bread twice in one day, because it was all that was available. And I ate eggs (yolk and all) two days in a row. Did it kill me? No it didn’t, but it also showed me that it is possible to be flexible and live healthily at the same time. It’s just a matter of treating your diet the same way you treat life – roll with the punches, enjoy the journey, and take each opportunity as it comes.

(A brocolli and egg scramble topped with nooch and white fresh bread with cottage cheese and butter

– this was actually really delicious :P)

(A quick dinner the next day – a warm bean, carrots corn and pea salad with a sunny side up egg)

Any thoughts on the matter?

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4 comments

  1. I spent a good 18 months thinking I was recovered because I didn’t fret over food anymore, didn’t restrict and was much more relaxed in my attitude to food. However, I still had these ‘standards’ of healthy eating. No white bread, no white pasta no proper potatoes. It took me until last year to realise that I was still living a skewed eating life. Yes, on the one hand I was eating these foods because they’re better for your body and more nutritious, but on the other I wasn’t really willing to buy them or eat the other types. To that extend, I had not fully let go of my hang ups. I was still forcing certain restrictions on myself by not being fully open to the world of food.
    Russia taught me alot. Brown pasta was unjustifiably expensive and many things we have in the UK, weren’t avaliable to buy there. And, you know what? I was fine. In fact, my whole attitude to eating gradually became ‘normal’ again. I now really feel that I have let go. I can enjoy food, I don’t look at menus and think…”it’s all refined carbs” or, “hmmm…nothing particulary nutritious here.” I’m flexible and eat what I fancy. Some weeks I buy brown pasta, some weeks I buy white pasta. Sometimes I have a full fat muffin at Starbucks sometimes I plug for a salad. It’s about listening to yourself and being comfortable with your body and diet to eat what is given to you and enjoying it!

    Sorry for the essay! But I think some of the blog world has a bit of a extreme view of healthy eating. Yes, I agree that it makes you feel better but at the same time a wholesale rejection of certain foods all. the. time. I think is not a healthy, balance way to go about living.

    It sounds like you have come so far in recovery and doing so well! It’s wonderful to read! 🙂

  2. I’m someone who would rather attempt to “cause a scene” and make a change rather than accept the facts. I’m not saying I’d flip a table over and demand a restaurant serve me brown rice instead of this inferior, refined, life-threatening pile of useless sugars known as white rice (hyperbole much?). However, I’m one to suggest that healthier options should be the norm and rather than being served “white” foods all of the time, more nutritious options should be commonplace and one should have to ask for the “lesser” good.

    I do fully understand the main message of your post and I agree that it’s probably better to nourish your body with macronutrients (they’re still nutrients, people!) and not-so-healthy eats than it is to forego food all together. I remember being in the latter category and I felt the cranky, lethargic after effects – not fun at all. Even the bummed feeling of knowing that a meal wasn’t so “healthy” is starting to outweigh the sadness that follows skipping a meal or not taking part in an event because we don’t want to eat something.

    I usually try to find some sort of happy medium when I’m at an event. I don’t care how snobbish it may make me appear (even though, in my opinion, it doesn’t and shouldn’t at all), I’m still going to refuse cakes, cookies, and other baked goods from a box, and I do my best to support my cruelty-free lifestyle habits, but if there’s a vegetable platter, or some rolls or something to just keep me full, I’ll go for that. Sometimes non-organic / non-humane dairy and eggs are your only option and you still go for it, but it’s about doing the best throughout all of your lifestyle choices and habits and one meal isn’t going to make you a heathen (or pack on pounds).

    Great post, I enjoyed reading it as I could relate to practically everything. 🙂

  3. Parting with food “rules” has probably been the hardest part of me overcoming my orthrexia. I want to be healthy — I want to eat the things that are good for me, and not eat the things that aren’t good for me. I used to label foods “good” and “bad.” I would never touch a cookie, white bread, sugar, cake, ice cream, doughnuts, frosting, sugared cereals, pizza, hamburgers, etc! Now, I realize that there really aren’t any “good” and “bad” foods — just foods that are good for you, and other foods that just aren’t so good for you. I don’t want to be obsessed about it and miss out on life just because I won’t eat a cookie with a friend. It won’t hurt me to have a cookie once in a while if I really want it. If I make healthy choices the rest of the day, it won’t kill me.

    Though, it can also get confusing with other people when I won’t eat certain things just because I don’t like them. I’m not much of a cake person (but I do love baking and decorating cakes), I don’t like hot dogs — I’m not much of a meat person anyways, and I try to avoid dairy (makes my face breakout, stomach problems, etc). People will “accuse” me of restricting when in fact I just don’t want it because I don’t want it. It’s not that it isn’t “good” for me — I just don’t like it. (Do you know what I mean?) I want to live with balance, but it can be hard sometimes.

    “Sometimes life has a way of putting us in unexpected situation where we CAN’T keep up with our health ideals.” — I’ve been in those kinds of situations, like when I go on a date, go to a party, etc. It can be really hard, but I just choose the best for the situation.

    Thank you for your post. 🙂

  4. This is so true and it is something I really need to work on. Even if you start eating more regularly and not starving yourself if you still have food rules then you are not out of your disorder. Getting away from the disorder means getting away from the disordered thinking around food. Food is good for you, your body needs it. It can be really hard to do, and I know it, but it still has to be done. Exceptions can be made and until they are no one is really recovered.


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