It’s been a while since I’ve written a post here and the main reason for that is I’ve been out living everything we’ve spoken about here. I feel like there are only so many times you can write about Intuitive Eating specifically before you actually need to do some bloody eating! And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
I suppose the moment that changed everything was a very cold morning in January, I’ve talked about that day here before. I’d just flown home from a weekend away with my friend and of course, I’d eaten everything I could get my hands on. Another ‘weekend off’ knowing full well I’d have to be ‘back on it’ first thing Monday morning. In a bid to ‘make the most’ of my ‘time off’, I binged on an entire family sized box of biscuits during the flight home. By the time I landed back in Bristol I was hysterical and realised that there was something horribly wrong with where my head was at. Skip forward only a few weeks and I came to the realisation I had been suffering from an eating disorder my entire life. Suddenly I had a flashing neon light above my head that I couldn’t ignore any longer.
In my misguided attempts to ‘cure’ the binge eating issues, I bought every book on Amazon with the word BINGE in the title. Sadly missing out the Intuitive Eating book, though I remember reading the description, my disordered brain found the idea of eating absolutely anything you wanted utterly laughable!
Looking back I probably couldn’t tell you how I found Intuitive Eating as an accessible platform, or what state of mind I was in when it finally sunk in as an option for recovery, but I suppose that doesn’t really matter now.
What I have been hoping to do here, however, is just that. Make Intuitive Eating an accessible option for recovery. Recovery from dieting, recovery from disordered eating, from eating disorders, from all the bullshit with live with surrounding morals around food and what we should be doing ‘for the sake of our health’. It’s impossible to move more than an inch without being confronted with what we ‘should’ be eating or how we should look. And once you start listening to your friends, your family, the TV, you can hear it everywhere. It is exhausting.
Fighting what everyone says may seem like a tiresome prospect, and I can assure you it isn’t a simple task. But what I’ve found so far is that as an alternative to the all-consuming disordered thoughts I lived with daily, this is a fucking improvement.
So what has it been like? If I’m claiming my recovery started in January and it’s now November, how has that period looked? Okay, I’m going to be honest. Messy. It’s been a really difficult few months. Recovering from an eating disorder is an uphill battle, let there be no mistake. Recovering in a world where everyone is fat-phobic and health shaming you IS A MILLION TIMES HARDER.
For the first few months, I was absolutely still in restriction, just a slightly less restrictive version. I was constantly judging how much food I was consuming, overthinking food choices, worrying about weight gain and clock watching ‘is it time to eat, should I wait for dinner’. These months were a real head fuck because I felt like I was doing ‘all the right things’, but I was still binging. Of course, now I can see that’s because I was still in a type of restriction. If you’re binging and you can’t work out why you are in some form of restriction.
It could be physically not eating enough – thoughts of ‘that’s enough food so I’m not eating anymore’, or ‘I’m hungry but I shouldn’t be yet so I’ll wait’ etc. It could be that you’re mentally restricting – thoughts of ‘I can have what I want but I’m not eating too much from this food group’, or ‘I’ve eaten enough of this food group so I’m not having this even though I really want it’. You might also be over exercising – thoughts of ‘I can eat whatever I want, I’ll just work it off later’ or ‘I’m out for dinner so I need to exercise now’.
What got me through that period was COMPASSION. I had just spent 5 years deep in anorexia, consumed by disordered thoughts, unable to think about anything but food. If I had been recovering from a physical illness (and to some extent I was) no one would have expected me to just be back to my usual self the next day, they would have given me months of healing time, months of taking it easy of being kind to my self and you need the same.
With my feet firmly rooted in what I believed, that diets don’t work and recovery can be achieved, I kept reading. I kept exploring. I purged my social media of everyone diet related, I followed people who felt politically important and I kept pushing forward with my own recovery. For me, learning about Fat Phobia and doing my best to deconstruct the deeply internalised fatphobia we all live with was a real boost to my recovery.
In the next few months, my food choices relaxed. Whilst I felt a lot of anxiety around food and it was absolutely still on my mind a lot, it was becoming easier to push through and eat until I was satisfied. However, I felt like I was binging ALL THE TIME. And I know a lot of other people feel this too. I receive message after message from women saying they’ve stuck out the first few weeks of intuitive eating but now they’re eating what they want they just can’t stop eating cake.
I so understand this. But what have you spent your life avoiding? What have you stopped your self from enjoying for decades? Because the chances are its fucking cake. Not only that, but you’ve been inconsistent with your calorific intake for decades too! Your poor body has no idea if this is a binge and we’re back in restriction tomorrow, or if this is going to be consistent. Your body is saving your fucking life right now. As far as it knows, it needs every ounce of energy it can get its hand on for fear that tomorrow this intake will evaporate again. So just eat the cake. Eat the food that you crave whatever it may be. Trust that your body is learning to trust YOU again and that when it does, you’ll arrive in a beautifully balanced world.
Without wanting to jinx it, I feel like that’s where I might be. I don’t want to over intellectualise where I am now or dwell too much on how my eating could be described. But let’s break it down a little.
I no longer feel I am in a mental or physical restriction in the way I was at the start of recovery.
I am no longer surviving on chocolate digestives alone.
I am able to eat at ‘unusual’ times of day, responding to hunger cues, without anxiety.
I am able to pick foods from all food groups without overwhelming fears or disordered thinking.
I am able to say no when I really don’t fancy something.
I am happy to eat over the point of full when something tastes amazing and it isn’t a binge.
I am able to stop whenever I want, knowing I can have more again later.
I am not obsessed with food. I am not obsessed with movement.
I DO NOT CARE IF I GET FAT.
Just to be clear. I AM NOT RECOVERED. I wake up each day with a little roll in my tummy. My disordered thinking wakes up when I do and it sleeps just a little after I’ve shut my eyes. But what I am now is a fuck ton more powerful. I am consistent in my ability to hear those thoughts and say ‘no’. I don’t argue with my voices anymore, I just hear them, acknowledge them and move the fuck on. Each time, it’s a win. It’s a boost. And as the fear of those moments rubs away, I realise I’m left with joy. I have space for anything I choose. I want you to find that space too.