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What is regular eating and how does impact recovery?
Dieting has become such a big part of our culture. Even children are prodding their tummy’s and telling us ‘I’m fat.’ It’s impossible to get away from and as someone who’s in recovery from Anorexia Nervosa, I find it difficult to engage with people once they start diet talk. I know I can’t get away from it indefinitely.
Dieting has become so tightly intertwined with our society that it would be nearly impossible without shutting myself indoors and staying away from all forms of media.
Every day I come across people watching their weight and displaying signs of unhealthy eating habits. I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve met who have the balance just right.
What is ‘normal eating’?
Before looking into adopting new, “regular” eating habits, I wanted to take a brief look into what is considered to be ‘normal‘. Surely dieting can’t be standard by which all people are held?
Recovery Warriors describe ‘normal eating‘ as the following:
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“Many people consider it “normal” behavior to anxiously monitor their weight every day, to worry about their amount of exercise, to obsess about whether to eat dessert. But is a lifetime of guilt about food and weight really normal? Is this how we want to live our lives? Is our physical appearance the only way we measure our success in the world?” -Mary Anne Cohen, Recovery Warriors.
There are considered to be six aspects to normal eating:
- Eat when hungry.
- Only eat what will satisfy.
- Stop eating when full.
- Face feelings directly rather than over or under eating.
- Express emotions directly rather than stuffing down on food.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you overeat, under-eat, or gain a couple of pounds.
What does eating regularly mean?
As part of treatment, adapting to a ‘regular’ or consistent eating schedule is considered one of the key components for recovery from an eating disorder. It can be very daunting, and with so much conflicting advice can seem nearly impossible. If you’re not working with a treatment team this is made even harder because you lack the guidance from a trained, medical professional.
Once a meal plan is in place, you can begin to gradually make positive changes to other eating habits.
Regular Eating is described as:
- Eat at regular times throughout the day.
- Avoiding long periods of time without food. It’s usually suggested to eat roughly every three hours.
- Routinely eat at the same time every day.
- Eat breakfast, lunch and an evening meal, with three snacks included in between.
My personal meal plan currently means that I eat every three hours, and must ensure that I eat six times a day. This would mean three hearty meals, followed by three snacks spread throughout the day.
It’s difficult, I’m not going to lie about that. I’ve suddenly had to go from skipping every meal to eating six times daily, and my brain is still struggling to process this. The reality is that the majority of people who eat regularly aren’t overweight. They’re also less likely to become overweight because they aren’t binging due to ongoing restriction.
Tips for Eating Regularly
Editor’s note: always consult your healthcare team before making any changes to your recovery meal plan.
1. Make eating a priority
Mealtimes need to become an important part of your day. In the beginning, this may mean compromising other areas or activities in your life, but after a while, you should be adjusted to your new schedule.
Create an effective meal plan can only begin with your full commitment.
2. Eat what you want
I know it sounds daunting if you’re coming from a place with Anorexia Nervosa. The concept that I can eat whatever I want scares me because Anorexia has never let it be that way. But in recovery, it’s paramount that you start off eating what you want, be it a chocolate bar or a banana.
In the initial stages of recovery, it doesn’t much matter what you eat, as long as you eat regularly and a substantial amount. The rest will come later.
3. Don’t purge
This one should be self-explanatory. If you suffer from Bulimia or bulimic tendencies, then the urge to purge will be ever-present. Resist the urge to take part in purging i.e vomiting or laxative use. This will only counter the effects of an eating schedule.
4. Do not skip meals
Being busy or forgetting snacks doesn’t cut it.
5. Stick to eating every 3-4 hours
Aim to eat every 3-4 hours. Going long periods without food can lead us to feel several negative side effects such as irritability, light-headed, trouble concentrating, and weakness.
If you have trouble remembering when to eat try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you.
6. Don’t eat between meals and snacks
This is known as grazing and I’ve been warned against it by my therapist. Grazing is counterproductive. It’s unstructured and ultimately confuses your body about when it should and shouldn’t be hungry.
If we stick to eating at set times each day and don’t stray from it, then our bodies naturally adapt to being hungry at those specific times. This would ultimately eliminate the body’s need to ‘graze.‘
However, if you find yourself persistently hungry try and stand against it. Drink some water or distract yourself in another way. If it continues despite this, it could be time to consider leaving smaller gaps between your meals or upping your intake at mealtimes.
7. Don’t give up!
Whether you’re in recovery or you just want to adjust your eating schedule remember; Never give up! Practice makes perfect and over time it will get easier to eat regularly, and you’ll feel so much better for it!
Whether you’re in recovery for an eating disorder or not, almost everyone could do with adopting a regular, scheduled meal plan.
I hope this was both informative and useful for you no matter what you’re going through in regards to your eating habits.
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