Pushing My Own Food Rules
Food and I have had a rocky relationship. When I was younger I used to eat anything and everything in sight. I was worried that if I didn’t eat now, I wouldn’t be able to eat later. I was never insecure about where my next meal was coming from, but I remember viewing food as a safety blanket; a form of security. I would eat emotionally, when I was bored, when I felt anxious, etc. I never left a plate of food behind and would literally lick my bowl clean at the end of my meals. I was never overweight, but I was a heavier and more muscular child until I started having an even worse relationship with food. I used to love it, then, I began to loathe it.
In seventh grade, I developed anorexia, a deathly eating disorder where you eat less and less until you eventually eat nothing at all. Anorexia took over my life rapidly and aggressively. Within five months, I had dropped around fifty pounds, I refused to eat almost anything, I worked out excessively off the little fuel my body had left, and I ended up in the hospital.
At the time, I didn’t really understand how I had gotten here.
I remembered one-day loving food and the next day, refusing it. I left the hospital thinking this nightmare was behind me and I would be totally back to normal, I was sorely mistaken. Over the course of the next several years, my relationship with food had its ups and downs. I would drastically fluctuate in my weight. I would eat a lot and then go through spurts of eating very little. I was scared of certain foods and then would binge on others. To say it bluntly, I was a wreck when it came to food.
I only recently would honestly be able to say that I have been in full recovery. It has been a long and hard road. There have been more tears than I can count. There have been feuds with myself and with others. There have been moments of success and failure… well, not exactly failures. Failure occurs when you give up on wanting to get better; I never gave that up.
My advice to those trying to heal their disorderly eating patterns starts with top of the list:
#1 Do not see mess-ups as failures. You cannot and will not ever be perfect.
You will mess up.1000%.
Messing up is not failing; refusing to try to recover is failing.
I messed up a lot. I fell down a lot. But, I always stood back up straight.
Within the last year, I have worked really hard on healing my disorderly eating patterns, thoughts, and habits. It started with me accepting that I had them in the first place! I was in such a deep denial for so long about how bad I really had gotten.
You have to own it to overcome it.
Finally, I owned that I had an eating disorder. I owned that I was not doing well. I owned that my relationship with food was a dark one. I owned that I wanted to change that.
When I was deep within my eating disorder, I had ‘food rules.’ I had ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ foods. For example, I told myself that cookies were unsafe. They were filled with fat, sugar, and processed sh** and I was not allowed to eat them… ever.
Now, what is the problem with this statement? Well for starters, there are NO good foods versus bad foods. Foods have nutrient content. There are healthier choices and foods that should be consumed in moderation, but looking at food as bad vs. good is very unhealthy and can lead you down a dark path as it did to me. The second problem is the ‘rule’ part or the ‘control’ part of that sentence, the ‘ever.’ To not allow me a treat ‘EVER’ was extreme and had an extreme outcome, as well. I was obsessed with my rules; obsessed with my food regulations. I could not break them. This is why a lot of people with eating disorders are very Type A personalities. We love control! I love control. I loved to be in full control of what I ate, when, and how little it totaled to at the end of the day.
My food rules only expanded as I became sicker. I started with ‘no cookies,’ and right before I was hospitalized, ended with ‘no carbs, sugar, fat, salt, condiments, snacks, fruit, anything packaged, caloric beverages, milk, mints, spices’ and the list, scarily, continued. I was left with eating raw vegetables and low-fat protein sources, which even that I strictly moderated.
My point is, a lot of disorderly eating begins with rules. Rules that are made up in our own minds, but have the power over us as law. I could not break my rules. I knew they were silly. I knew they were dangerous. I knew they were killing me. I did not care; I was not going to lose control.
This was when my eating was really bad! Over the past couple of years, especially recently during my recovery phase, I have gotten much better at resisting flipping through the pages of the food rules bible found in my brain. Some foods were easy to welcome back into my diet and never bat another eye at! However, some I still struggle with mentally when I eat them. I may feel guilty or upset with myself for ‘breaking the rules,’ but I now am able to better recognize this bad pattern and stop myself before I spiral like I used to!
Which brings me to this challenge today! I wanted to challenge my recovery and challenge my progress. I wanted to show others that you can heal from eating disorders and that you can also still struggle. So, I decided to challenge myself to a day of eating ‘against my old food rules bible.’
I was both excited and terrified, but the outcome shocked me in the best way… I had come so far and promised myself to only continue further! My goal for this challenge was not to just binge on bad foods and say “f*** it” to health for a day! My goal was to be as balanced as possible. To really try to be intuitive with my food! Eat what I wanted, when I wanted it, and to not feel guilty about a single, delicious bite.
I spent the weekend free. I ate donuts with my friends. I ordered a salad for lunch because that was truly what I was craving! I made a vegan pizza for dinner that night packed with vegetables! I felt so balanced. I felt so strong. I felt so happy and proud. I felt scared once. I felt panicked once. But overall, I felt healthy.
Evaluate Your ‘Food Rules’
The first step to this challenge was to get better in touch with myself and the ‘bad food bible’ I had created inside my mind, It is such a weird concept that we are constantly with ourselves, but a lot of the times, we are more disconnected with us than with anyone else! I needed to see what foods I had deemed ‘bad,’ why I had done so, and how I could challenge myself to fix it!
For example, enter the donuts! I had always seen donuts as sugary, doughy, fattening foods that I would never allow myself to eat! They were going to make me overweight, ugly, and sad. This was my mentality. I truly had always feared that one donut would make or break my diet, healthy lifestyle, health journey, etc. So, I stayed far, far away from them. Even recently in my recovery, I had eaten donuts, but I had always caught myself doubting the donut afterward. I know this sounds crazy to people who have never struggled from an eating disorder, but if you have you know exactly what I am talking about. I needed to let go of my old ‘food rules’ and see food for what it was: just food.
Shut down that voice REAL fast!
When you start to break the cycle of loyalty to your food rule book, you will notice a very loud and aggressive voice in your ear. It’s your own. When I started to push my food rules on this challenge day specifically when I tried to eat intuitively and enjoy treats/goodies, the old me would have refused to even smell, I sometimes found myself being yelled at… by me.
Your mind will try to make you feel guilty. Don’t let it. Your mind will try to make you feel fat, ugly, like a failure, don’t let it. Your mind will make you feel like your weak and gullible or stupid and feeble. You are not. You need to recognize that voice and shut it down immediately! You are not a failure for eating a cookie. You will not gain 10 lbs for eating a slice of pizza. You will not lose control by enjoying your life and enjoying food.
Food does not have power over you anymore, so don’t allow it to think that it does. Catch yourself having those thoughts and out loud say, “No, you are wrong. I am allowed to enjoy this food and you will not stop me.” Seriously, that’s what I did. I told myself that I was allowed to be happy and allowed to be healthy and allowed to enjoy a donut if I wanted!
You can, as well.
Do not let your mind spiral. Do not let your anxiety takeover. Do not let your bad food bible move back into your brain. There is no room for it there anymore, so kick it to the curb where it belongs, far, far from you.
Eat for health, happiness, and vitality!
When you focus on health and not on looks, weight, image, etc. you see food for what it is: delicious and nutritious. You need to start to rewire your brain to see food for how it can heal you, support you, cleanse you, and nourish you! That was me with the salad. I genuinely have such a different relationship with food and my body now that I craved a salad for lunch that day! I wanted a big, full bowl of goodies that would make me feel and look my best! And then, I wanted some chocolate for dessert because that’s called balance and that’s called life.
You no longer can view food as living to eat (or in my case, living to try to not eat), but rather eating to live. It will help you completely shift your mindset and relation to food when you start to alter these thought patterns around it. Think about the goodness of food, the nutrients, the healing effects, etc. you will start to be able to rewire your brain when it comes to food and it will help alleviate the stress you may feel around it and the insecure feelings that will arise when you start to eat outside of your own food rules handbook.
It’s a constant battle, but soldiers don’t quit.
You deserve a life without food rules made up in your noggin that constantly cause you pain and sadness. I loved this challenge because it showed me how far I had come and how far I still have to go. It was exciting and difficult!
It proved my point that it was all and always will be in my head and I am the only one who can control that space.
How powerful! When I ate my pizza, I felt so at peace. It was delicious. I love pizza. I allowed myself to love pizza. I didn’t question it. I didn’t weigh the pizza or calculate it. I didn’t stress over it and that is how you should live with food. That is the relationship worth fighting for! It was hard, but it was worth it, so I challenge you to do the same! Challenge yourself to eat your ‘unsafe foods’ or to skip a day at the gym if you have been going for 100 days religiously now! Challenge yourself to find balance in your life, that was my ultimate message for this blog post. Find balance because balance is where health is and health is where happiness is and that is where you belong to be loving every single bite of that delicious donut!<3