Sunday, 27 July 2014

Eating Disorder Recovery and 'Healthy Eating'



There is no 'right' way to recover from an eating disorder. There's no one-size-fits-all approach and no magic method that cures everyone instantaneously. If there was it would make the whole experience so much easier but unfortunately recovery is a messy process filled with tears, tantrums and doubts. There's the constant worry about whether it's the right thing to do, if the amount you're eating is more or less than you need or if the fact that you're abstaining from exercise is 'lazy' (it isn't!). Of course there are parts of recovery which are necessary for everyone to go through, such as weight gain (if you're underweight) and attempting to improve a disordered mindset by engaging in some sort of therapy with a professional (or even just through supportive conversations with a trusted family member or friend). But the food side of things is where everything gets a bit more complicated; believe me, when I first started trying to recover from my ED I went through months of intensive research trying to find information about the exact amount of calories I should be eating and the types of food I should be including in my diet. However, this is a tricky area because the amount of food needed in recovery varies drastically between each person, depending on their situation. Some people may need to eat upwards of 4000 calories a day to gain weight, whereas some may need 2500. Some people may not need to gain weight at all so would be better off consuming a maintenance amount according to their BMR and activity levels. This is the sort of thing that is best discussed with a professional so if you're unsure then please ask someone who is qualified to treat people with eating disorders or someone who has experience with supervising healthy weight gain.


The main reason I'm writing this post is because someone on Instagram recently told me that 'healthy eating isn't a cure for an eating disorder', which I found to be quite offensive. Never have I claimed that eating a certain way can cure any eating disorder - EDs are mental illnesses which manifest in a tight control (or a lack of, in the case of disorders such as BED) over food and weight, so eating a certain way will never be able to cure someone of one because it's not tackling the root of the problem. Something else which concerned me was the use of the term 'healthy eating'. What is 'healthy eating', anyway? To one person it may mean eating foods which nourish the body and encourage good health within it but another person may take it to mean eating foods which keep the mind and soul happy but are not necessarily nutritious. To me, 'healthy eating' is being able to consume any type of food with no guilt or fear, and be safe in the knowledge that you're fueling both your mind and body with the best possible nutrition. To put it simply, no food is off-limits but the consumption of wholesome foods which contain plenty of essential vitamins and minerals is something which should be encouraged.





Whilst I was doing my 'research' I encountered so many conflicting arguments about 'recovery food' and it was hard to know which to pay attention to. After a while I noticed that there were two recurring opinions from opposite sides of the spectrum that kept popping up - the first was that recovery should consist of 100% 'clean' food and exercise should be the main motivation for weight gain, whereas the other side argued that you should mainly eat 'junk' food and conquer all your fear foods as soon as possible - the acts of eating 'healthily' and engaging in exercise were labelled as being signs of orthorexia by this side. Not everyone had views this extreme but it did seem as though most people fell on one side or the other. I started off in the middle, veered over to the pro-clean-eating-and-exercise group for a little while and now I'm back to a happy medium in the centre of the scale. I believe that a big emphasis should be placed upon banishing 'fear foods' in recovery because it's important to have a healthy and guilt-free relationship with all food, but I also believe that you need to eat a lot of nutritious food at the same time because you've damaged your body and it needs as much help as it can get in order to repair and heal itself. I'm not telling you to go out and buy heaps of superfoods but fresh fruit and vegetables should definitely be incorporated into a recovery intake on a daily basis. 'Fear foods' aren't always 'unhealthy' or 'junk' food though - personally, I was extremely scared of most fruit for a very long time even though fruit is extremely nutritious and isn't unhealthy in the slightest!





The most important thing about recovery is that you need to take control of it yourself and learn to trust your own body and cravings. Don't sit and analyse what other people are doing or eating because they're completely different to you and have separate needs. They'll exhibit different behaviours, have different thoughts and experience fears of different food, therefore their recovery will also be different. Look after your body by nourishing it with wholesome food but simultaneously fight the voice inside your head telling you that other food is bad, because it isn't - a balanced diet is key and I like to think I've finally achieved that. I eat natural, whole foods the majority of the time but I'll also happily eat a slice of not-so-nutritious vegan cake at a cafe with my friends, an entire takeaway pizza (vegetarian with no cheese and extra veggies!) while watching a movie with my boyfriend, or three bars of raw chocolate in a row because life's too short to deny myself the things I enjoy!



The most amazing vegan date and chocolate cake from Eighth Day Cafe


If you're ever doubting why you're recovering then just remember that being stuck in a world consisting solely of illness, numbers and misery is far less rewarding than living a life full of laughter, friendship and delicious food. It does take a while to get to a comfortable point though so don't be discouraged if you don't feel as though your attitude to food and your body is improving straight away. It took me almost a year to get to the stage where I was able to start experimenting with food and recipes and even now, 16 months into my recovery, I still have my ups and downs. But things do get better - I never used to believe anyone when they said that but it's honestly true, I promise.


Note: if you're worried you may be suffering from disordered thoughts about food and your body, or are engaging in destructive or negative behaviours then please confide in a trusted friend or family member, or better still a doctor or professional who is qualified to treat people with eating disorders. 

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24 comments

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    1. I love you more, you beautiful thing xxx

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  2. Meghan, I'm happy with your post...It makes be proud of you, of your growth, your wise. I send you all my love)
    And as for thoughts...You are so right - there is no one magical key for all, it's always about your own path. And sometimes even to copy someones path can be helpful - for those who need strict guidence. Guess it rare happens but might. And there is no "wrong" way if you decide to do something with ED - each and every step, whenever it's up or down, leads you to the recovery - each and every, I strongly believe in it.
    There are so many people around us and they have many different habits. Some like teach others - from the best motives. Some thinks that they just the cleverest. Some want to disturb you cause they are lonely and feel sadly. And they all can write the same thing - like that you've mentioned about healthy eating. And you never know why this concrete person have written it. And...it's good. Let him be with his thoughts. Let believe that he didn't want to disturb you. But let's take his words as a lesson for us: the less it makes us upset, the closer we to recovery. We know the difference between lifestyle (vegan or vegetarian) and working on finding balance with food. It's different things and we know it. That is important, not what others think. Sorry, I am again write too long and afraid boring. In any case, hug you:)
    Polina (berrystylegirl)

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment Polina, it really means a lot to me! You don't write long or boring things at all, everything you write is thoughtful and kind, and that's what matters :) I'm proud of you for fighting your eating disorder and I'm so grateful for all your support. Thank you xxx

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  3. I love the fact that you've written this post! I've definitely been on the extreme sides of both arguments, relapsed more times than I care to admit, and only 5 years later do I feel like I'm heading down a healthy middle pathway. Everyone is different, everyone has different needs, take different lengths of time, and need different kind of support. You are amazing <3

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    1. I love the fact that you like it! Thank you so much for the honesty in your comment. Unfortunately it's so easy to relapse with eating disorders, I've had more than my fair share of slip ups during the course of my recovery, some which have lasted just a week or two but others which have lasted for a few months. I'm so so proud of you for how far you've come Pixie, you're a huge inspiration to me and your attitude to food and health is so refreshing, especially considering you come from a background of disordered eating! You're exactly right - for some people it can take less than a year to beat their negative thoughts but for others it may be several years because we're all completely different. You are also amazing and I'm so glad I know you :) xxx

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  4. Great post, Meghan, and I'm so happy that you have found a good place in the intersection between eating healthily to nourish your body and eating goodies that nourish the soul! :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Casey! I'm really pleased I've reached this point because there's no point having a healthy body if you don't have a healthy mind to match, and I don't think that depriving yourself of food you love is healthy at all :) xxx

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  5. This post is a real gift Meghan! I like the fact that you talk about both approaches and that you seem to have found your personal path. As you say and as you already told me in our email exchanges; everyone is different and needs to find its own relationship with food! Thank you for being so inspiring and down to earth! xx

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    1. Thank you, Eléonore! I'm really glad I'm now at a point where I feel comfortable and satisfied with my diet; I don't feel deprived at all and it's wonderful :) exactly, we all need to discover and accept our cravings, food preferences and the balance of macronutrients that fuels each of us the best! Thank you so much for your kind words, they really mean a lot to me xxx

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  6. Incredibly well written Megan. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Its means a lot to me and I find comfort in your words. Its so good to hear you've reached a stable place in your journey and I look forward to that. Lots of love!

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    1. Thank you, Megan! I'm so happy you find comfort in what I've written - the main goal of this blog and my Instagram account is to help encourage people to look after their mental and physical health as much as they possibly can, so hearing positive comments such as your own is wonderful! Sending lots of love your way xxx

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  7. I couldn't have said it any better myself. I'm so proud of you Meghan, and you continue to inspire me each and every day and for that I'm ever so thankful. Navigating the ed recovery minefield is hard, almost impossible at times but you've managed to push through and find a healthy balance which is truly admirable. Lots of love bby girl, you're amazing!!

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    1. Aww, Tilda, I'm so grateful for this comment! It's really strange to think that I inspire you because you inspire me all the time with everything you say, do and post. It really is, I think there's always going to be a danger of the ED re-emerging in times of stress but luckily I now have the strength and rationality to (hopefully) fight it! Sending so much love your way, you fabulous thing! xxx

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  8. Congratulations on your recovery process and thank you for this post. It really helped me. I think I'm gonna read this all over again and again to remind myself that counting calories all the time and worrying constantly about the (whole)food I consume and about my weight is not healthy at all. I also like your recipes and Insta photos! :)

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment! It really means a lot to me when people tell me I've helped them, even in the smallest way. I'm so pleased you'll look to this post when you're struggling - I will too! Obsessing over numbers is no way to live our lives, we deserve so much better than that. I wish you all the best and I hope one day we'll both be free from these thoughts! In the meantime I'm always here if you need a chat, you can email me or message me on Tumblr if you ever want to :) and thank you so much, it always makes me happy when people say they like my creations and pictures because I worry they're all rubbish! So thank you, you've made my day xxx

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  9. You are very inspiring :) I have anorexia nervosa on top of severe M.E. (bed bound for 2 years so far) and it's a very tricky thing. I've had an ED for 10 years (since I was 11) and it's always there, it's just how we deal with it :) I'm not very far in my recovery at all because I can't get to my local clinic so I do the best I can with my boyfriend. I struggle with it every day but being bed bound plays a huge part in this. But, your Instagram actually makes me want to eat :D you seem like an amazing person! I'm going to share this post through my blog if that's okay?
    Laura X

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    1. Aww, thank you so much, that's so lovely of you to say! I'm so sorry that you're suffering from both of those awful things, my heart goes out to you, sweetie. You are such a strong person for not giving up though! I'm so sorry that you can't get any professional help for it but I'm glad you have your boyfriend; I know how much of a help my own boyfriend has been during my recovery so it's good that you have someone there for you. Oh my goodness, the fact that my Instagram account makes you want to eat (and recover?) is so overwhelming to me - all I want to do is help people who are in the same situation that I was/am so the thought that I could be helping you is incredible! You also seem like an amazing person and thank you so much for your comment, it's made my night! Of course that's okay, I'm super flattered you want to share it :) look after yourself, lovely! I hope everything gets better for you xxx

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  10. I'm currently having an MMM (Mega Meghan-stalking Moment) and I can't believe I've only just read this post! I'm honestly so proud of you and I feel honoured to have met you and gotten to know you so well over the past 6 or so months Megs. I know you're modest but I'm being genuine when I say that you're an inspiration and should be SO flipping proud of yourself lovely! You know I'm aaaalways here if you need to talk and I know uni and work and stuffs is making it impossible to have our ginormous snapchat convos again (catch-up needed pls), I'm so pleased to call you one of my closest friends! #Twins4Lyf xxx

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    1. Aww, you're the sweetest Amy! I'm so proud of you too and even though we've both struggled with food/exercise things we're finally doing awesome, right? :) You're so lovely and your comment has really made my night! Aww, I miss our long conversations - we'll definitely have to meet up and have a huge catch up sometime before Christmas okay? :) I'm super honoured to call you one of my closest friends as well, love you girlie! xxx

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  11. Great post! very inspiring, I love your blog btw.
    I just started my own blog and talk a lot about eating disorders, so please check it out if you have time!
    Have a lovely day! xo

    http://www.libertylifeandselfhelp.com/

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    1. Thank you so much! Your blog looks fab and it's great that you raise awareness about eating disorders :) sending lots of love to you x

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  12. What a great piece of writing Meghan. This is an amazing article. I have been collecting information about the eating disorder as I am suffering from Anorexic Nersova. Your article has a deep info about this and I am really pleased. I would like to share some info about it in an article:Eating Disorder is not a joke.
    Hope You like it.

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  13. Hello! Thanks a lot for sharing this story! Unfortunately, eating disorders, often associated with a bit unhealthy relationship with food, are indeed very serious: http://bigpaperwriter.com/blog/eating-disorder-essay - therefore, you'll need to take care of your health!

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