Friday, 2 February 2018

All things FOOD // Eating Disorder Recovery #3

Hello lovely people,

This post is the 3rd instalment in my Eating Disorder Recovery series. Today, I want to tackle a fairly tricky subject - FOOD.

Obviously food/eating is hard to talk about in eating disorder recovery, especially without it being triggering. When you have an eating disorder, food isn't food as you know it. Food is elevated to God-like status . It is given the power to 'reward' and 'punish'. It is labelled as 'good 'bad' 'healthy' 'unhealthy' 'guilt free' 'indulgent' etc. Food is given a moral compass that in reality, doesn't exist, even though this idea is actively promoted by the media (more on this here). And with that moral compass comes a whole bunch of emotions. Disordered eating habits are then used to numb these emotions, to regain a sense of control.

For example...

I would always purge before important events, special occasions, or any time when I wanted to feel good about myself and gain a temporary boost of confidence. Hunger and thinness became synonymous with 'having my shit together' (even though I really didn't have my shit together). For a short time after purging, I felt invincible, like I could take on the world. It's a kind of high that's hard to explain, especially when you're hurting so much underneath; a light-headed, paper-thin fantasy. Soon enough, I would crash back down to earth and my emotions would flood back into consciousness - guilt, shame and self-disgust. Then, to antidote my strict regime, I would 'lose control' with food, by binging. Even during a binge, my thoughts were restrictive, torturing me over every morsel that passed my lips. My binges had rules, just like my purges, certain foods I couldn't binge on because they were too 'bad', how long the binge would last for; I would even start planning my next purge as soon as the binge began.

Honestly, I don't know how that sounds to someone who hasn't had an eating disorder. Does it sound crazy? It should do, it is crazy. To me, it sounds exhausting and familiar and sad. To me, it makes perfect sense and at the same time no sense at all. After all, it was my brain that constructed this plan and my brain that remembers it all, so of course it makes sense to me. However, it was also my brain that put a stop to it, that absorbed new information about the world and rejected that seemingly never-ending cycle of self-loathing.

It is hard not to idolise your eating disorder and think of your ED memories as 'the glory days'. I catch myself doing that sometimes. Remember who was in charge when those memories were created - your ED. The way I look at it; when you are feeling vulnerable, you ED presents you with an social media style super-cut of memories - filtered, edited and twisted into something that it's not. Granted, in some ways, it was easier to just go along with your eating disorder and all its crazy ideas. BUT, you've listened to those ideas time and time again and tried to make them work..but they didn't. They left you unhappier and unhealthier than before. So not matter how great those memories seem, remember all that is missing from the story - all the tears and heartache and empty stomachs. Remember too that it's not your fault that things ended up that way.

At this point, I want to make something quite clear: there is a very small part of my brain, the ED part of my brain, that doesn't get much of a say in my life any more. Nevertheless, during times of stress, I still have disordered thoughts, and sometimes even disordered behaviours and that's OK. It is the part of my brain that has yet to heal. It may never heal completely and that's OK too. At a basic level, eating disorders are coping mechanisms and my eating disorder happens to be my brain's default coping mechanism. So, sometimes I need to manually go and change it to a healthy coping mechanism - it doesn't happen automatically. Saying that, with practice, it will become second nature to you, like brushing your teeth.

By far the most important thing to remember during this whole process is to forgive yourself. Forgive your brain and all its craziness. Despite what you may think, it is doing its best even though it doesn't always get it right. 

Food Diaries

When I began recovery, something that was recommended to me was keeping a 'food diary' where I would note down what I ate and how I felt before, during and after. For me, personally, this was an incredibly stressful activity. It felt like even more rules were being added to my life and even more opportunities to remind myself of my food 'failings'. Also, I started watching 'Food Diaries' on YouTube, which, even at the time I knew was self-harm in itself. Please please PLEASE do not watch these. Do not get sucked into food comparison and food perfection ideals. Trust me when I say 99% of these people are either hungry or lying. Also every person is going to eat different amounts of different types of food and that is 100% fine and normal. This will fluctuate throughout the day, week, month, year etc. People are not going to film the day that they stayed at home and ate a packet of biscuits for lunch. The same goes for 'Workout Routine' videos. Stay AWAY at all costs.

Going Vegan in Recovery?

AH this is a hard thing to talk about for me because I was vegan during a lot of my eating disorder. I personally believe that it is important to lift all restrictions on food until you have healed enough to make decisions around food that aren't going to trigger ED behaviours. I would love to be vegetarian, for purely ethical reasons but I know, deep down that I'm not ready for that and I am not willing to become a martyr and sacrifice my health. This is just my personal opinion - it might be very different for others. However, I would advise that you exercise extreme caution around any kind of changes to your diet. Find out what is safe and healthy (and by that, I mean mentally healthy) for you and do it.

Fear Food Exercise

Make sure that you are feeling emotionally 
stable before attempting this exercise

Pick one food that your ED had labelled 'bad' or 'unhealthy'
 or that you are afraid or reluctant to eat

Take note of the kind of thoughts that emerge 
when you think about this food

They might be something like:

'I can't eat this food'

'I don't deserve to eat this food'

'This food will make me fat'

Now, reverse them.

What would be the opposite of those thoughts?

It might be something like this:

'I can eat this food'

'I deserve to eat this food'

'I feel vulnerable when I eat this food,
but this food will not do anything bad to me'

Say these new thoughts out loud before 
eating your food of choice.

This is not a quick-fix solution but the 
more you challenge your thoughts,
 the easier that eating will become.

From twitter account @whwucadv

I hope you have enjoyed this post, let me know what topics you would like me to write about next.

Remember to follow this blog on bloglovin and like the Facebook page to keep up to date with new posts.

Find the rest of my eating disorder recovery series here!

Until the next time,

Niamh xxx

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