Eating Disorders Editor's Picks

Adjusting to New Foods in Recovery

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Adjusting to new foods in recovery isn't easy. You must teach your body to accept the foods it has rejected for so long. This can be uncomfortable.

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We hear a lot about intuitive eating in the context of eating disorder recovery. We should listen to our bodies because they know best.

We cannot trust our minds, so surely we can trust our bodies. But how do you listen to your body when it is sending you mixed signals? When you try to listen to your body and it refuses to cooperate with your intentions? When you finally decide to sample some of the foods on your list of foods you designated as “bad” and your body revolts?

We are taught to believe ‘healthy’ and ‘low-calorie/low-carb/paleo/vegan/ (insert your diet of choice here)’ are synonymous.

Go along with these beliefs for long enough, and you will trick your body into this same distorted logic.

I know because it happened to me.

Try eating a rich piece of gluten and sugar-laden chocolate cake after consuming only the following food groups for years: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-calorie beverages (yes, this is a food group to someone with anorexia). Fats, sugars, and salt are abominable choices; you wouldn’t eat them if they were the last foods on earth.

Yes, I’m finally ready to take the plunge of eating a food on my “bad” list.

After months and months of persuasion by a team of therapists and doctors who are kept up late into the night racking their brains for ways to convince this stubborn brat of an adolescent to listen to them, I’ve realized cake is not bad. Cake is just cake!

And then, I raise a forkful of moist, decadent cake to my lips. The sweet and intoxicating scent flood my senses before the crumbs melt onto my tongue and electrify my taste buds.

A couple minutes later, the slice of cake is gone and my body is writhing. The sugar and caffeine are roaring through my bloodstream. My heart is throbbing out of my chest. I have to lie down, right now.

This was a horrible idea. I knew cake was not good for me. Stupid! Why didn’t I listen to my “intuition?”

My advice: this is normal, I repeat, normal.

You must teach your body to accept the foods it has rejected for so long.

This requires having uncomfortable experiences and being okay with them.

Let these words be your mantra: “Nothing is wrong and all is well.”

I’m not saying I recommend doing what I did. It is probably better to let your body adjust to these foods slowly and in small doses. I am saying not to throw in the towel because your body doesn’t react well to these “new” foods. Even babies need several tries of new foods in order to tolerate them.

My heart still races sometimes when I consume a lot of sugar at once. But over time, these effects become milder and milder.

Recovery is building your body up, making it stronger, and more resilient. A healthy body is one that can handle a wide variety of foods.

Let’s create a new definition of health, one that empowers us to consume the foods we like.

One inclusive of slices of rich chocolate cake, and of having a stomachache from overeating occasionally.

Food is just food. Bon appétit!

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