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I read quite a bit about recovery and those who think they are fully recovered. But their recovery statements are peppered with:

“but I don’t eat this food”
“I eat only healthy foods”
“Of course I don’t eat anything with fat or sugar”

So are you recovered or not? There are food rules all over the place in your thinking and diet. Flexible and intituitive eating does not mean you have banned or bad foods.

There.are.no.bad.foods.

It’s how much you eat of certain foods that causes the problems. Your body needs fats. It needs carbs. You can’t say you have recovered from an eating disorder if the two main food groups needed to fuel a body are on your ‘rule’ list.

You CAN eat that cake (or whatever food it is) today and enjoy it. It won’t destroy your weight, it won’t destroy your life. The difference is you don’t do this every day or several times a day. Eat, enjoy, move on.

Saying you have definite ‘do’s’ or ‘don’ts’ about food is tricky. You need to carefully and honestly look at why you are forbidding certain foods. If they feed into food rules that are reminiscent of an eating disorder, you need to seriously challenge this thinking. Also by ‘putting out’ there in the public arena your ‘recovered diet’, you can cause someone else to stumble badly in their recovery. Eating disorders are brilliant at distorting any information about food and diet and your comment about ‘healthy food’ is someone elses’ trigger.

It can be very easy to slip into a ‘disordered eating’ pattern instead of an ‘eating disorder’. Disordered eating patterns are not a recovered position and they can also set you up for relapse later on.

Be so careful in recovery with your diet and food intake. Be careful you are not unknowingly compromising with the eating disorder. Our society is so blended into dieting and healthy super foods, that we all forget that there is no bad food and flexible eating means eating widely from all food groups.

I deliberately didn’t put a picture with this post. Most show a huge creamy cake on one side and a salad on the other (you get the idea). Life is NOT like that. Food is NOT like that. Again the media and diet/health culture makes us think in black and white. Black and white (or absolute thinking) is just what lands us in eating disorder territory.

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What if you gain weight from all of this? You’ve already gained weight since last summer. What if it all goes straight to your expanding hips and thighs? What’s wrong with you? Did you really need to eat the whole plate? You know, you look pregnant, right?eating and food guilt

While I can’t control these automatic thoughts, I can remind myself that they’re definitely mistaken. I can remind myself of the truth.

If you’ve recently had the same kinds of demoralizing, irritating thoughts, here are a few reminders:

  • You have permission to eat whatever you want. The only rule, if there is a rule, is simply that you savor and enjoy what you’re having.
  • Normal eating is flexible.
  • You have permission to reach for seconds, if you like, or to stop after one helping. It’s totally up to you, your cravings, your hunger and satiety signals.
  • You aren’t naughty, bad, stupid, disgusting, an idiot or ______ for eating certain foods or for having more of certain foods. These are the words of the 60 billion-dollar diet industry (and many women’s and “health” publications). Unfortunately, they’ve become engrained in our vernacular. Which is understandable, because, sadly, such statements, seem to be everywhere. But they’re false (and manipulative).
  • Whatever you’re feeling is OK. Sometimes, we have a tendency to berate ourselves for feeling guilt or shame or discomfort. Why can’t these feelings just go away? Shouldn’t I be over this by now? But those automatic thoughts and feelings — yep, the negative ones — are OK. These may be deeply held beliefs. So try not to judge yourself for having them. Acknowledge how you’re feeling, and try to feel those feelings. Again, whatever you’re feeling is valid.
  • The guilt we feel is really more of a habit than the truth. Those are the words of Susan Schulherr, who told me a few years ago:

“…Feeling guilty about high-calorie foods, or fats or sweets, is a habituated response…the habituated thought is going to come up whether we like it or not. So the trick is to recognize it for what it is: a habit, not a truth.”

“As I say to my clients, you may not be able to stop the thought  or related feelings from popping up spontaneously, but you don’t have to set out the tea service and invite them to stay. Once we recognize we’re in the guilty feelings, the step toward change is to interrupt them rather than to let them romp at will in our psyches.”

“If guilt pops up when you’re trying to enjoy [food] in peace, you need to take that step back and respond with your own version of ‘Oh, of course, there’s that guilt stuff again. It makes me feel like I’m being bad, but I’m actually not.’”

  •  I also really like these other phrases from Susan: “I don’t have to earn the right to enjoy what I eat.” “What I eat has nothing to do with being good or worthy.”
  • Try to meet yourself — and those negative thoughts and feelings — with compassion. Talk to yourself in a kind way. Try to act in kind ways.

When guilty feelings and negative thoughts arise, try to remind yourself that you haven’t done anything wrong. Remind yourself that you are still worthy.

You are worthy whether you reach for a second helping or not. You are worthy whether you eat an apple or a piece of apple pie.

You are worthy whether you have these feelings or not.

 

From Weightless Blog

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You can have all the help, support, treatment and therapists but the bottom line about recovery, relapse and healing is this:

To beat anorexia you have to eat

This isn’t the “just eat” type of comment. It is the deep, caring, understanding statement that in the end says “the only way to fully fight back is to eat”.

It means fighting against the voice of anorexia and the deep fears it has created in you – the food rules, the list of forbidden foods, the safe foods, the fat fears, skinny is best rules.

Eating is a normal activity. It is an essential activity for life and health. The mind and body need to be fully nourished for us to perform at our best. Eating is meant to be flexible, intuitive, fun, enjoyable, social, delicious.

Sticking close to the safe food list not only slows or stalls recovery, but it tells the anorexia that it is still in control and winning. Having a strict routine of counting calories, weighing food, using certain bowls and utensils, eating slowly, missing meals is also telling the anorexia it is still in control.

To beat anorexia you have to eat. You have to break down the rules and fears.

The rules and fears aren’t real. I think this is the hardest thing to realise. That other people do not have these rules and fears in their heads. It is the anorexia and only the anorexia that is making up these rules and fears. It distorts your thinking and your perception. It creates denial, smoke screens, irrationality and lies.

The biggest freedoms from anorexia are literally not having the rules, routines, fears and bondage that you live with on a daily basis.

Beginning to eat again is not an easy process. I truly know how hard it is. Sophie had so many rules and fears. It took months and in some cases years for her to confront the fear for each and every food. The fears are not a blanket approach – each food on the forbidden list had it’s own fears. For someone who only had 6 safe foods, Sophie’s forbidden list was formidable. For her it was a matter of finally deciding to choose recovery and be committed to it. It meant facing one new food at a time. Some foods were easier than others. But it did get easier over time. As the anorexia lessened it’s hold, Sophie found trying new foods and adding them to her diet was not as hard. Telling herself constantly that the fears and rules were all false also helped. It’s like reprogramming your mind.

Forever etched in my mind is her look of delight and amazement when trying a strawberry for the first time in years.
It was a truly magical and amazing moment.

Whilst you are confronting the anorexia and learning to eat again, this is where the therapy and support come in. Help to encourage you and let you know you are not having to face this alone. Treatment to help you unravel the hold the anorexia has on your mind. Meal plans to help you learn to eat again.

Do you want to beat anorexia? Claim back you life? Finally have freedom?
Eating = healing

eating = healing

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In the starvation of anorexia, the body undergoes severe stress to stay alive. It shuts down many processes, slows others, simplifies functions etc. It’s goal is to survive and to at all costs protect the brain.

In refeeding the body also undergoes a lot of strain. Some things don’t work the same, like digestion and the rest of the lower digestive tract, how it stores and distributes the nutrition. The body takes longer to build up than it took to break down. The amount and type of nutrition is critical and dependent upon how long the body has been in starvation and the strain put on it.

So when the body starts consuming higher levels of food it doesn’t distribute the nutrition the same. It just puts it all (so to speak) in one spot, as it works out what parts need the most building up and nutrition first. The abdomen becomes the storage place. Hence the rounded tummy. It even has a term given to it – fluffy weight gain or fluffy fat. It means that it won’t stay that way, it is a transitional thing. The fat is not a bad word nor a wrong word, our bodies need fat to live. Only our society and culture has made it a bad word.

Your body isn’t going to metabolise or use food the same way as before. It has to relearn how to do this again, and relearn how to digest the food.

The brain and organs are the body’s first priority –
not your ‘need’ for a flat stomach.

Because anorexia has the whole body image and fat psychology in it, everyone literally ‘freaks’ out about the weight gained and the round tummy. The overwhelming fear of being fat and the body image of the flat stomach creates a major level of conflict. Many relapses happen because of this.

Here’s a truth and new concept to think about:

The fear is false and the tummy will flatten out. TRUTH!

And it won’t happen in a month, a few months or even a year. Your body has almost been destroyed, it takes a long, long time for it to heal and work like it did before. And you can’t tell your body which bits to heal first. Your body knows best and is doing exactly the right things.

It comes down to re-programming your mind.

First, remind yourself do you want to live, be healthy or be very sick and miserable and worse die. The choice is yours when it comes to recovery. If a flat stomach means more than your life and health, then there is a problem.

Second, remind yourself the ‘fluffy weight’ will go. It will redistribute properly, your body will work properly. This isn’t a dream or false wish. IT WILL HAPPEN.  The body will not leave your tummy in it’s rounded state. As it heals it will stop using your abdomen as a storage place and send the food nutrition directly to the correct areas.

Third, the fear in your mind about getting fat and putting on too much weight is false. It’s the anorexia giving you this fear and distortion of reality. It’s controlling your mind and making up fears to control you and stop you recovering.It takes a lot to defuse this fear, anorexia feeds and lives on fears. It takes courage to face the anorexia and say, ‘that’s not true and I don’t believe you’. Time will allow you to learn this one. But know it is possible and can be done.

Fourth, follow your meal plan. This helps by giving constant nutrition to the body and starts to stabilise by it’s consistency and regularity. It helps against binge eating which can also emphasise the fluffy weight.

Fifth, it will all take time. You cannot hurry the recovery process. It simply cannot be done. You also cannot measure your recovering body against someone else’s. Everyone recovers at a different rate – metabolism, muscle, body fat, and your other unique body blueprint. In the end you have to choose. What is your goal, what means most. Health, a life free or close to free from anorexia or do you want to be beholden to sickness, control, fears and no/little freedom.

Learn to relive, heal, find a life again. The more you get involved in your life, the less you will notice the stomach. I watched Sophie do the same things. Watched and walked with her all the same fears and rounded tummy. Her body is now normal with a normal abdomen size. She now knows the fears were never real or true.

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I have lost count of the families who still want the magic fix. You know the one pill solution – “where is the fix they cry”. I understand how they feel, but the reality is there is no FIX. There is no magic pill or treatment. No one stop shop that has the answer.

Research is making progress and yes there will in the future be better outcomes, but not yet nor in the short term future. The complexity of eating disorders will always be there. Research shows that environment, genetics etc all play a part in the development of eating disorders.

mixed eating disorder treatmentsSo treatment becomes a mixed bag.

  • NG feeds, or
  • NG feeds + food by mouth, or
  • just food by mouth, or
  • nutrition drinks + food, or
  • just nutrition drinks, or
  • inpatient then outpatient, or
  • inpatient then therapists, or
  • mix of inpatient and outpatient
  • Maudsley or other FBT
  • doctor/nurse/medical regular appointments

… catching on?

Therapy will be a mix of:

  • dietitian/nutritionist
  • psychologist/counsellor
  • psychiatrist/paediatrician
  • CBT, DBT, hypno, massage, expressive therapy (art, dance etc)
  • journals/diaries
  • meal plans/meal diaries
  • support team/friends/family
  • intuitive eating
  • medication/supplements
  • distraction techniques/recovery toolbox

Personally it is:

  • personal goals/achievements
  • commitment
  • hope
  • honesty
  • learning both the costs and benefits

You may find other ways help you than what I have listed or know of. It isn’t one size fits all. But what is important to know and understand, the mixed lot of therapies and treatments is what achieves recovery. It is a lot of work and struggle to find what works for you or your loved one. But one that is worth it.

Ignoring the ED and hoping it goes away, or hoping someone will give you the magic fix is not going to bring recovery.

Hoping you will be the exception to the rule is also a very rare outcome.

Recovery is real, full recovery is also real. Finding the mix that works for you is what creates and grows the recovery.

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In eating disorder recovery either your psychologist and/or dietitian will introduce you to the concept of intuitive eating. It is an essential part of relearning how to eat – so that flexible, varied, normal eating patterns can be re-established. Below is one of the best information I have found on intuitive eating (http://www.intuitiveeating.org/content/what-intuitive-eating)

———————————————–

Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body–where you ultimately become the expert of your own body.   You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom.   It’s also a process of making peace with food—so that you no longer have constant “food worry” thoughts.  It’s knowing that your health and your worth as a person do not change, because you ate a food that you had labeled as “bad” or “fattening”.

The underlying premise of Intuitive Eating is that you will learn to respond to your inner body cues, because you were born with all the wisdom you need for eating intuitively. On the surface, this may sound simplistic, but it is rather complex.  This inner wisdom is often clouded by years of dieting and food myths that abound in the culture.  For example, “Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full” may sound like basic common sense, but when you have a history of chronic dieting or of following rigid “healthy” rules about eating, it can be quite difficult. To be able to ultimately return to your inborn Intuitive Eater, a number of things need to be in place—most importantly, the ability to trust yourself!  Here is a summary of the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating, from our book, Intuitive Eating, 2nd ed, 2003. With these principles, comes a world of satisfying eating and a sense of freedom that can be exhilarating!

Intuitive Eating Principles

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
  2. Honor Your Hunger. Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
  3. Make Peace with Food. Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
  4. Challenge the Food Police. Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating under 1000 calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
  5. Respect Your Fullness. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.
  7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
  8. Respect Your Body. Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
  9. Exercise–Feel the Difference. Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
  10. Honour Your Health–Gentle Nutrition. Make food choices that honour your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

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self-love and compassion

 

You can only get so far in recovery or make recovery even more difficult than it already is, if you lack self-love, self-care and compassion for yourself. Most have to be taught that self-love is a good thing. You have hated yourself for so long, felt so worthless and unloved or unwanted by everyone, that it is a new learned concept to relove yourself. It can be a life defining moment, when you realise you can love yourself (and are worth that) and no longer compare yourself to others.

In a nutshell, self-love and/or self-care means:

  • following your meal plans
  • listening and implementing the things you learn at your therapy sessions
  • being open and honest with your team and your family members
  • caring for your basic needs – brush your teeth, comb your hair, get dressed, put make-up if that’s your thing
  • talk nice to yourself
  • treat yourself even if it is just small things that don’t cost anything
  • beginning your spiritual journey (don’t forget this step, many lives are deepened and changed by this. God isn’t not an old fashioned concept either)
  • doing things you love not because they express who you truly are
  • going for walks or some form of exercise
  • getting enough sleep
  • keep a journal or gratitude list
  • taking your medication regularly and on time
  • staying away from scales and your known triggers
  • staying away from social media as much as you can (seriously these sites can be so demoralising, particularly Tumblr)

And in the end, be compassionate with yourself. You will get tough days, days when you break your recovery plan, relapse, binge, purge, restrict or self-harm. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t put yourself down. One or two blips doesn’t mean the whole thing is destroyed. Take note of the blips, learn something from them if you need to. Often blips provide inner insight as to what stresses you. Pick yourself off, put it aside and start again tomorrow. Don’t bring the things that happened yesterday into today to spoil the new day.

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