recovery & nutrition
Eating disorders pivot on a complete mental fixation with the body and food. The process of recovery requires that one acknowledges the patterns of thought, changes these thoughts, and moves the mind to notice and experience the world outside of the body and food. This process can be challenging and confusing because it requires one to do two opposing things at seemingly one time; change how one thinks about the body and food to encompass healthier attitudes while simultaneously develop an authentic self outside of the body and food.
A self that is not obsessed with green smoothies, run clubs, or holistic nutrition. An authentic self that is not defined the body and food but nourishes and cherishes food and the body.
Establishing the balance of 'health' and 'recovery' is a delicate dance and one that sufferers and clinicians often don't know how to approach. Where is the space between the two; the space of caring about our health, wellness and nutrition while working towards abandoning dieting? Can you really do both during the process of recovery?
The answer is yes, but it isn't an easy process. It is a journey that demands self-reflection and awareness. It is a process that means abandoning perfection and admitting defeats. A road where are times the eating disorder will trick you. Trick you into thinking that you really do love drinking mushroom flavoured lattes. When this happens (and it will) it is okay. Just be brave enough to be honest with yourself when you realize that you have been duped. Courageous enough to stand up to the eating disorder and acknowledge that you do authentically like toffee flavoured full fat lattes from Starbucks and that's cool girl. You can do mushrooms lattes on Monday and toffee full fat lattes on Tuesday, variety is the spice of life.
No questions asked, recovery demands that one lets go of all the rules.
Recovery forces one to turn inward. To relearn to self-trust and hear our own signals. To have health be self-directed rather than prescribed. This means persistent effort to let go of all those rules and trust our bodies. To eat what we enjoy, experiment with our taste buds, and to stop judging food…and ourselves for what we put into our body.
This process allows us to approach each meal with excitement rather than fear. This is a massive victory in the process of recovery and is a time when we are no longer worried about our weight or clothing size. Food is a social experience, one that connects us, nourish us and allows us to flourish. This period of recovery is a blissful awakening of allowing ourselves true freedom with food.
BUt than it happens...am I being healthy? Am I doing this whole food thing right?
It happens when we least expect it. We think that we have moved on and past the eating disorder because we now enjoy food. You think to yourself you even ate a hamburger last weekend with no symptoms and you enjoyed it. But it starts with a sneaking suspicion that we are going just a touch overboard. We think maybe the eating disorder is coming back? How much is too much? Why does my stomach hurt each night? Am I bingeing again? It is the little voice in the back of the mind, a persistent itch, and the nagging thought before bed.
Why is 'health' leaving us feeling gassy, bloated, with developing acne, lethargic and on a sugar roller coaster filled with mood swings? Is this really 'healthy' eating? It has to be - this is what the culture around us is prescribing to us as health.
This is the critical point in recovery where we have to remember our first initial goals. Darling remember that recovery requires that health be completely self-directed; it means writing own medicinal food prescriptions and not accepting the eating disorders or our disordered cultures prescriptions of health.
This is when recovery gets really tough because the truth is, we live in a disordered culture. When we abandon dieting we often also end up abandoning paying any attention to our health. And sadly we don't live in a culture that is considerat of health.
Many of us experience a time in recovery when we go from one extreme of health-obsession to the other extreme of not-caring-about-health-at-all. From one disordered way or being to the other. Acknowledge this, moving through this period, and being brave enough to find that fine line between complete freedom and nutrition-informed choices is 'real' recovery.
Because it is not healthy to eat most of the foods that our marketed and sold to us AND it is also not healthy to only drink green juices, eat seaweed at each meal and be obsessed with dehydrated fruits. There is a space between, there is a place between these two types of disordered culture. The space is one of gentle nutrition.
So yes, You can care about nutrition and be in recovery.
Caring about your health is not betraying the recovery process. It is the entire reason why one enters recovery, to be healthier. However within the field of eating disorder recovery there is often so much talk about eating without rules and judgment that it almost felt wrong to even think about nutrition but - it really is not!
Allow the pendulum to swing back and forth for a while, and learn the many lessons in the process... allowing the pendulum to swing so that it eventually settles will allow you to come to an understanding that pursuing health is not wrong but often simply just the next step in the evolution of eating disorder recovery.
Learning to do it in a loving, gentle way, without rules…not sliding back down that hole into restriction…that is the tricky part. That is where the challenge is but also how a real, lasting and full recovery is formed.