I’m writing this post as a follow up to my previous post. I have received some emails asking how I actually started the process of recovery from an eating disorder. Of course, what I’m about to say is all inspired from my own experience and what worked for me. Everyone’s situation is completely different and unique to them based on their specific disorder, weight, BMR, where they are mentally etc. What worked for me might not work for you. However, if you’re sick of living a slave to food- it is possible. I finally got it in my mind that I didn’t want to eat that way forever- I was tired of being a slave to food and I was ready to stop abusing myself. I saw a friend who had recovered and it inspired me to do the same. He encouraged me to start my recovery process by gradually increasing my calories. However, I didn’t do this systematically with formulas and calorie counting. While yes, calorie counting and tracking was still subconsciously taking place at that time, I tried to separate myself from those thoughts and not put any weight into them. I started by making myself eat more and fighting my ingrained tendency to eat less. I gave myself permission to eat the things that I always said were off limits like oatmeal and peanut butter. I tried to honor my hunger instead of relishing it. In the beginning I was still eating way under what I should have been eating at that time, but I was eating a lot more for me.. and it was a gentle and gradual way of re-introducing myself with food and the feeling of being full and rewiring my relationship with these things.
Just eating more calories isn’t going to fix an eating disorder.
I had to fix the root cause of the problem- which was my relationship with food and my body. This is why I didn’t force myself to reach a certain calorie number or what not— in fact, I had to force myself to do the opposite and not count calories. In hindsight, this was one of the best decisions I made. I allowed myself to give into my food cravings and tried not judge myself for them. This is the foundation for eating intuitively so I believe this is a good place to start if you can. For me, trying to “recover” using exact calories and formulas would have been a loosing battle. Letting go of the need to track was liberating and so incredibly necessary. Scary? Heck yes. But I had a trusted person helping me through this process that would always remind me how little calories actually mater and now much NUTRITION actually does matter.
Calories are vital to life. Why are we running from them?
I had lived my life trying to get below a certain calorie number each day, I didn’t want to change just to live my life trying to get above one now. Honestly, letting go of calorie counting is NOT going to happen over night. It is definitely a process when it is so ingrained in your mind. Just keep reminding yourself-- calories are mere numbers. They mean NOTHING from a moralistic standpoint. However, calories are very essential to life. If something has calories it means it gives you ENERGY. This is not a bad thing! You need energy for life- for you cells to function! For you to run and play and for your brain to think! Putting so much emphasis on calories is a sad lie we've bought into. To think calories alone can make us thin and happy is wrong on so many levels. Why do we think reaching an arbitrary number on a scale is going to make us happy!? Also, there is SO much more at play when it comes to weight maintenance than just calories. Calories do not equal fat! Calories equal energy and life. Putting so much emphasis on them is wrong on an emotional level and a biological level.
I kept reminding myself what my friend (counselor of sorts) was saying to me—eventually my metabolism will speed up again! When my body realizes it is no longer in a constant state of starvation, my body will begin to metabolize food correctly and efficiently again as fuel. In this way, calories are friends. Food is friend. Honestly, this was a huge motivator for me. I was tired of my TANKED metabolism.
Recovery is hard because eating intuitively is not possible in the beginning—we have TRAINED our bodies to survive on less. There is literally no mind/body communication- only the mind telling the body what to consume. If the communication between the two is not present, fluid and mutually respectful, then intuitive eating is not possible because your body cannot communicate effectively to the mind and the mind is not receptive to listening yet. Over the weeks and months and years I gradually increasing the amount of food I consumed and with every day it became easier and easier. The word “calorie” grew to have less stigma around it and foods become less morally charged as “good” and “bad”. Calories grew to have little meaning to me. Eventually your body will remember what it feels like to be nourished and your mind will begin to soften to the body’s innate wisdom. You become a nutrient seeker instead of calorie counter. Then you can begin to eat intuitively.
Next week I am going to address weight gain in recovery. Of course, weight gain is one of the hardest things to mentally cope with and I don’t have all the answers to any of this. But maybe in can help and speak to you where you are at.
It is my biggest passion in life to guide women along this journey to intuitive eating. If you have tried to recover over by yourself but you feel you still need to work with someone- check out my practice- Nourishing Minds Nutrition.