Eating and recovery pt 1

Hi everyone!

Rember I promised a more “thought provoking post” a while back. Well I started writing it a few days ago, but I only finished just today.

I began writing this post during my pre-exam craziness and it was sort of triggered by the fact that my stomach is having issues again. It seems like 80% of the time I’m home I end up with nasty stomach issues. The sheer physical pain and discomfort I experience is not half as bad as what goes on in my head.  More than anything else I feel guilty, guilty of not listening to my body, or of overeating – there’s all sorts of reasons my mind presents me with for this guilt. And it makes me sad, because when I go home I want to enjoy being with my family, not  spend the time curled up on the couch with a hot water bottle on my stomach, hoping the pain will pass.

However, in every negative there’s a positive, and it got me thinking about my eating/appetite during recovery. Recovering from an ED, aside from the mental issues that come with forcing yourself to eat, there’s a lot of very  physical aspect that come with it. So I though about sharing my experiences and the things I’m learning/have learned in hopes that maybe someone else can relate. I know going through these things I felt very alone, and I always wondered if it was just me. So maybe, just maybe someone else will know what I’m going though.

I will say as an introduction that my eating + recovery journey is definitely far from complete, and I’m still learning a lot of things as time goes by. Just the fact that I’m still having a lot of stomach issues is proof that there’s room for improvement. But I have learned a lot getting to where I am today, and hopefully someone can benefit from my past experiences

At the very beginning of my recovery, I was pretty much forced to eat. I don’t say this in a resentful way, in fact it’s something I learned to rely and depend on. I was asked to plan my meals a week in advance, and I had someone oversee my portions and literally watch me eat. This was necessary because at that point I was unable to eat on my own, I simply couldn’t go into the fridge and pull something else if I was hungry. So I stuck to a very strict plan that I would NEVER veer from.

My hunger at this point was very elusive. I experienced severe pain and bloating 99% of the time after I ate. Of course, this was to be expected, considering I wasn’t used to eating hardly anything at all, and I wasn’t aware of my lactose intolerance and other issues. But at this point I had to FORCE myself to eat, even if I wasn’t hungry. In my opinion intuitive eating in a very early stages of recovery isn’t a good idea, because you’re so used to ignoring your bodies signals that in some cases it stops sending them to you anymore. So forcing yourself to eat is pretty much the only option. And it’s hard, it takes a lot of willpower and I the support of others around you is crucial. You also need to admit you NEED help. I remember the days I would sit in front of the fridge and cry, because I was hungry, but I just couldn’t force myself to eat. This is where the support of my family and friends was integral and I can honestly say I couldn’t have done it without their help.

Then came the next phase of the physical part of recovery – my appetite came back. I think this is one of the scariest phases of recovery, because you’re so used to never being hungry that once those normal biological signals kick in, things get a little freaky. I know for me personally there was always the underlying fear that I would start eating and I wouldn’t stop, that my appetite would be so raging and out of control that I would gain and gain and never stop, even after I was at a normal weight. At this point I was doing weekly weigh ins as well, so seeing that number go up brought a variety of emotions. Not all of them were bad, some weeks I would feel like I must have gained copious amounts from what I had been eating, but would be surprised to find the scale had only minimally changed, if at all. Other weeks it was harder, that number would be quite a bit higher then I was comfortable with, and I would find myself trying to restrict and control my appetite again. After these phases of restricting was the only time I ever really “over ate” – my bodies way of trying to compensate for the fuel it was so obviously lacking. At this point I was also keeping general calorie count – not for weight loss purposes – but rather to ensure I was eating enough during the day. The problem with this was that I become obsessive about getting the perfect balance of every food group, and eating only 100% whole foods. Nothing processed or with sugar, I still was terrified of fat in any form. So my diet was pretty limited and lacking in a lot of vital elements. I also found myself eating too few calories during the day (which wasn’t surprising considering how limited my diet was), and then having to compensate for it with huge night snacks – which my body didn’t react well to, to say the least. The pain and discomfort I went though always triggered more negative feelings and emotions – so this phase only lasted a short while before I decided calorie counting wasn’t for me.

Then I came across the concept of intuitive eating. First I was intrigued and puzzled by it – was it really possible to be at peace with your body and eat whatever you wanted, without overdoing it? Could I trust my body that much? Cautiously I began experimenting with the concept.  I stopped weighing in and calorie counting at this point, because they were making things worse instead of better. I started trying to focus on the quality of my food, as opposed to the quantity. I also stopped thinking of food only as fuel, but also allowing myself to enjoy it – meaning occasionally eating something that wasn’t the “healthiest option”,because it’s what I really wanted. This was also when I overcame my fear of fats, and started eating nuts and avocados, making my own nut butters,  and even occasionally eating full fat yogurt and cheese. I discovered my love of dark chocolate and began accepting and indulging in it. My previously very limited and restricted diet became much more varied, and I can safely say that this was a very positive step forward in my recovery. However, since I still wasn’t aware of my IBS issues and dairy intolerance – I still suffered a lot of stomach aches and pains. I also occasionally used my “intuitive eating” to either snack through real meals or skip meals because I “wasn’t hungry”.  There’s definitely a balance that needs to be struck there between doing what you feel like, and occasionally forcing yourself to eat because your body needs fuel or sticking to schedule so your body can sort of stabilize your eating habits.

What are your views on the concept of “intuitive eating”? What are the pro’s and con’s in your opinion?

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10 comments

  1. I think intuitive eating is great, if you can do it. I honestly don’t think I can totally just “go with what I’m feeling” at this point in my life. I LOVE food so much that I’d probably just eat everything all the time. I know sometimes I get too rigid in my food planning but I’ve learned to loosen up! I think it’s all about balance!

  2. YES i agree so much with you about the intuitive eating. if your starving your intuitive ability is WAY under normal so you cant trust it. you basically have to force yourself. are you going to tell an anorexic girl to listen to her intuition on what to eat?? No. most anorexic people don’t feel enough hunger, so that would be an issue.

    also; inuitive eating doesn’t always work if you have an illness of some sort either.

  3. Oh my goodness this post is so heartfelt and deep. You have such a gift with words! 🙂
    I personally don’t know enough about the whole intuitive eating thing to pass judgement, but from what I’ve heard, it has worked wonders for some people in recovery!

  4. Let me start this comment by saying I love, love, love your posts! And this one is just an example of the wonderful writing you do.
    Anyway, I’ve heard so much about intuitive eating through my own recovery and as much as I try to do it I just can’t. I’m sure it works for some but not for me. Though, that’s probably because I still have so much trouble with food.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    I try to eat intuitively but sometimes I just have no clue as to what my body wants. I’ve recently lost weight unintentionally (due to health issues) so I have currently put my intuitive eating on the back burner just so I can gain some weight back. But I do believe that intuitive eating is a long and winding road. Sometimes we will eat more than we need, sometimes less, but in the end it balances out. I like to watch how kids eat. My little brother, for example, eats intuitively and he doesn’t even realise it. He doesn’t care all that much about food. Just as long as he gets enough of it. I don’t even think he has ever been so full that he feels as though he can’t move. Kids just don’t do that. It’s strange to think that as you get older, food and your body become harder to understand. That’s what society does to us, unfortunately.

    The only con about intuitive eating is that it takes practise.

    xxx

  6. Oh you are so brave for writing this, I felt really emotional reading about your struggles. I think you are doing so well, you have so much to be proud of lovely! I try to eat intuitively but sometimes I struggle because I’m in the habit of eating at certain times and also I worry that I’ll overeat, it isn’t always easy! Have a fantastic weekend 🙂

  7. This is more than helpful my dear Leelou. This post is what will help me these days, so I thank you so much. “. But at this point I had to FORCE myself to eat, even if I wasn’t hungry” That is how I feel right now. As if my appetite has diminished completely and I am standing in the kitchen with the fridge door open, wondering what I can eat and crying because I’m literally not hungry but I have to make a decision.
    There is a piece of my mind that is nervous about when my appetite does come back, which I believe is holding me back right now. I am so fearful of going to the other extreme again and being ravenous that I do not want to let myself get to that stage, despite HAVING to.
    I am so lucky to have you as a friend who understands this process. I am so proud of you for fighting through and that you are in the intuitive stage in your eating life. You are amazing. Don’t ever forget that.
    Hugs. xoxo

  8. Thank you so much,Leelu,for this wonderful and helpful post of yours. I always love your thought-provoking posts because you really know how to usw words and express yourself best. You are always able to rech the HEART of the reader; a talent only few people really have. I always wait until I truly have the time to read and internalize your posts therfore. 🙂

    I admire all the people who are able to eat inituetively because personally,I find this terribly hard. But maybe,that’s because I am still in that “scary” phase when you get back your appetite and aren’t really used to it at the moment,so I still have a bit of hope left I might come there someday…

  9. Pingback: No cheating | A new start

  10. Pingback: Eating and recovery pt 2. | A new start


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