I decided to start my next series of posts with some of the lessons I’ve learned on the road to recovery from an eating disorder. I think you’ll find that these lessons are applicable to recovery from any mental health illness and may even be useful simply in cultivating joy and inner peace.
The first lesson I had to learn (and one I still occasionally struggle with) is this: No food is off limits. (For another author’s view on this idea, click here.)
Now, right away, I can imagine some of you thinking (because I’ve thought it myself), “REALLY? No food is off limits?!”
My response: That’s right. No food is off limits.
You may then say, “Not even Twinkies and Tastykakes with their gobs of disgusting chemical preservatives?!”
My response: One Twinkie or Tastykake won’t kill you.
You may then say, “What about foods high in saturated fats or fried foods and meals with more than X calories?”
My response: Once you start forbidding certain things, where do you draw the line? How soon will it be before the voice of disordered eating starts ruling out healthy fats and starts decreasing your calorie limit?
Again, no food is off limits. We really can trust our bodies. Honestly, bodies do not want to eat copious amounts of saturated fat, salt, sugar or preservatives. Our bodies will tell us what they need and when they need it. We are blessed if we’re in a financial position to satisfy those needs.
Sometimes it helps to pause for a moment before eating, just to ask ourselves a few simple questions:
Am I physically hungry or thirsty? (Sometimes we try to satisfy our dehydrated bodies with food instead of water).
If I am hungry, what do I want to eat right now?
Does what I want to eat have any nutritional value? (Protein, simple fats, simple carbs, vitamins, minerals, water, etc.)
If not, am I really hungry for this food or am I trying to satisfy an emotional need (or trying to escape an emotion)?
What have I done to nurture my inner child today? (e.g., thought about what I’m grateful for; played/exercised; connected with someone; connected with the natural world, etc.)
If I’m not really hungry and I haven’t really satisfied my emotional and spiritual needs, I might delay eating and try doing something else. Then I can come back to the kitchen later and ask myself these questions a second time. If I am really hungry AND I tended my emotional and spiritual needs AND I’m still contemplating eating a chocolate chip cookie, I’ll eat the cookie. Why? Because no food is off limits. My body won’t want to eat all two dozen cookies. I’ll even go so far as to say that nothing awful will happen (other than an upset stomach) if I do eat all two dozen cookies. I will still be me. Eating cookies won’t make me lazy, unsuccessful, miserable, doomed or whatever else that inner critic wants to tell me will happen. So again, I say no food is off limits.
It’s one of the most difficult, but most powerful lessons I’ve had to learn in my recovery. Let me know how you’re doing with this one. Submit a comment or send me an email.
Peace, joy, and health in recovery,