For My Restrictors
Why You Should Follow Your Meal Plan
For those of you struggling with a restrictive eating disorder, know that there is help, even if you don't always want it. The nature of restrictive disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa or Orthorexia is that they are pleasing to the ego. Restriction feels good, until it doesn't. It works to keep you feeling "safe" until it takes over in sudden, unexpected ways. With your input of what foods you are comfortable eating, I recommend working with an eating disorder dietitian to create an individualized meal plan. Figuring out what, and how much to eat on your own is incredibly difficult. Every food decision gets filtered through your disordered mind leading to more conflict and confusion. What food is safe to eat? What ingredients are okay and which are not? How much does your body really need?
I recognize that it takes surrender to let one of us create this for you and to trust that we will not overfeed you. We also know that a meal plan isn’t an instant cure for your struggles.
A Meal Plan is one important step towards the potential for healing.
With meal plan in hand, the question remains how in the world you are going to follow this, day after day? It can often feel like you are going against every grain in your body in doing so. Here I share some of the many reminders I have given my clients over the years. Perhaps one will resonate with you and give you that added push to eat adequately today.
- Food is your medicine for healing from this disorder
- You may not feel like eating but you still need to take your medicine
- Calories are a unit of energy not a unit of fat
- As you increase your intake, you increase your metabolism
- It is not at all unusual to go into a hypermetabolic phase which means you will require far more calories than your same-aged, same-gendered peers
- Comparison to what others are eating will only confuse you further
- As you repair muscle and restore glycogen, you will gain weight. This is not fat
- As you gain weight, your metabolism will increase and continue to burn faster and stronger
- Weighing yourself is perhaps the biggest trigger of all and will sabotage many of your efforts
- Having scheduled snacks as part of your meal plan is not the same as “out of control snacking”
- As you begin eating more, you may almost immediately feel like you are expanding and getting bigger. This is not a reality. Full does not equal fat
- If you have a certain degree of body image distortion (and most do), know this will probably be the last thing to get better. Practice tolerating your fluctuating self-image
- Food causes your stomach to distend slightly and that will go down again. Bloating and constipation at the beginning are normal. This is not your body telling you to stop eating
- Eating more and frequently helps increase gastric emptying and helps to resolve gastroparesis
- If you have a slowed thyroid from restriction, this too will resolve in with adequate intake
- Try to avoid going more than 3 hours without food
- Keep non-perishable snacks such as trail mix or bars in your purse and car at all times. Not being prepared with food is one more way ED tricks you to remain ill
- Stop “educating” yourself with internet based nutrition information and limit reading of nutrition labels
- Consider Recovery Record, a free app on which you can keep a food diary on your phone
- Get rid of all calorie and fitness apps
- A meal plan is not a maximum and if you eat over the suggested amount it does not mean you have failed. A meal plan is the minimum amount of safe food you need
- Exercising on top of restricting intake breaks down additional muscle and bone rather than rebuilding them
- It is not unusual to feel "gross", "lazy" or guilty when you make the right recovery choices such as rest and eating. The right choices often feel wrong in early recovery
- It is useful to learn how to manage the inner critic and ED voice. Imagine these two as best friends who become your worst bullies. Retaliate with your own words and opposite actions!
- Your body will be able to stabilize and not continuously gain weight
- The fear that you will continue gaining weight indefinitely is also a common fear that is not based on reality
- Typically gaining weight is far harder than losing with restrictive disorders
- Anything that tells you that you are not allowed to eat is just a complete lie
- You are a worthy human being and eating is your innate right and responsibility
- The fact that restricting feel so darn right is what makes it so deadly
- When your hunger signals return it’s a good sign, not a sign that you won’t be able to stop eating
- A lack of hunger cues is normal when you have been restricting your intake. That does not mean you are not allowed to eat. You have to eat in spite of a lack of hunger signals
- Respect the danger of this disease. I know it feels amazing at times but it’s so very dangerous
- Consider confiding in a friend or family member for accountability and eat with trusted people in your life
- Isolation feeds the disorder
- Access the wise part of yourself; the True Self that is YOU. That part wants to eat and knows it needs to eat
- If you continue to eat too few calories, you will break down lean body mass and eventually organs and bones. That includes the heart! That slowed heart rate is unlikely an “athlete’s heart” but rather, that of a restrictor
- When we restrict intake, we eventually end up overeating or bingeing! This is simple biology. Your body will push you to eat more than what your head tells you is okay simply because your body has not received enough calories or nutrients. It tends to feel out of control and often leaves one feeling guilty. When you begin to eat enough, this actually goes away!
- You burn calories all day and all night long even when you are completely sedentary
- Food does not make you fat