Having a positive relationship with food is so incredibly important in full recovery from an eating disorder. I believe it is one of the hardest tasks, but the most valuable at the same time. It takes a great deal of effort and time to heal your dislocated relationship with food and all related matters.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” -Virginia Woolf
Through my eating disorder, I developed a disjointed relationship with food. It became a way of punishing myself for my lack of self-confidence. Food felt guilty and wrong. I became fearful of food and all things related.
My broken relationship with food first started when I was in high school. I began categorizing certain foods as good or bad, some even untouchable. After a few months, these categories turned into internal rules about what I can and can’t eat. Eating these bad foods meant breaking my eating disorder’s rules and resulted in an immense amount of regret and anxiety.
These rules and my broken relationship regarding food consumed and ultimately ruined my life. I could no longer enjoy eating; it became a fearful act. When I was at birthday parties I felt so shameful about eating a few bites of cake. Even on my own birthday, I asked for fruit instead of cake because the thought of one being presented to me was so unbearable.
Good and bad foods governed my world for years. Finally, when I admitted to treatment this fall, I started to slowly rebuild my relationship with food. One of the first things I was taught in treatment broke one of the biggest rules.
There is no longer good or bad foods.
Food is food. Food is fuel. Food is medicine.
Food is a necessity in our daily lives and it is to be looked at as nutrients for my body, not good or bad.
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At first, it felt so wrong to eat foods that I had deemed forbidden. But after a little time, it was liberating. To finally be free from my disorder was a relief.
In treatment, my dietician challenged me to switch up my food choices. I could easily get caught in a cycle of repeating the same breakfast and snacks daily, and I did. These new foods became my safety net. I was okay eating an English muffin or granola, but toast or cereal scared me.
These foods had become my new good and bad, even if I hadn’t explicitly labeled them that way. So together we made changes to my menus and incorporated new, and often scary, foods into my weekly meal plan.
Check out my meal plan: What I Eat In A Day
By allowing myself to break these rules, it helped to rebuild my relationship with food. There are still foods that cause me more anxiety than others, but there is no longer a fine line between good and bad. I’m starting to learn to look at foods differently.
I try my best to think of any food from the starch category for what it is; a starch item in my meal plan. Rather than comparing waffles to pancakes, I have learned to accept that they are simply both breakfast foods from the starch category.
Something else I do is get involved with the food preparation process as much as possible. By cooking, baking, and plating my food it has helped heal the broken relationship. Being a part of the preparation helps me play a role and connect with more than just the eating aspect of my food. This can be scary for many, but taking the first step by simply chopping your vegetables makes all the difference, eventually being able to prepare an entire meal for yourself.
Allowing myself to enjoy foods is helping repair the relationship as well. This was one of the hardest things for me to do, as I don’t always feel deserving of enjoyment, but it has made all the difference. It is easier to eat if you actually enjoy what you’re putting in your mouth. Even if it is only one item on the plate, allowing myself to enjoy it increases my liking for that food, ultimately restoring the relationship.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” -Hippocrates
I still have a long way to go and my journey isn’t perfect. There are still plenty of foods that boost fear inside me, but I challenge myself each and every day by choosing a variety of foods and pushing myself to enjoy them.
Sometimes it’s unbelievable how much progress I truly have made with my food relationship over the past few months and I look forward to seeing how it develops into an even more positive connection over the months to come.
How is your relationship with food? What has hurt or healed it? Let me know in the comments below!