Eating Disorders have a higher mortality rate when compared with other mental illnesses. And yet it continues to be stigmatized and not talked about enough. Diet culture is pervasive and clever, and the selling of “health” as a product we can consume affects all our choices, whether we are conscious of it or not.
It is fairly obvious that recovering from an Eating Disorder means reducing and eventually eliminating symptoms; The perfectionist tendencies, restricting of and compensating for food, excessive exercise, and counting calories are things we know we need to stop. But what about all the symptoms we don’t talk about?
The Eating Disorder brain comes up with all sorts of ideas that seem entirely rational but are actually symptoms. Here are 10 ideas you may not have thought of to help with your recovery:
1. Do the opposite of what diet culture tells you, and buy some bigger plates. Eating on small plates allows you to restrict your food in a way that fools you, and everyone around you, into thinking you’ve eaten more than you actually have. Small plates are not helpful in measuring portion size. Ask yourself, if you moved your meal onto a bigger plate, would it still provide you with the right amount of nutrients?
2. Small spoons and small forks were not meant for eating meals. They trick you into eating smaller bites, or allow you to take tiny bites that are easy to make it feel like you’re not eating much. Small cutlery perpetuates your fear of judgement, they fool you into feeling like putting tiny bites into your mouth is eating more privately. This is not healthy.
3. The scale. Stop it. Just stop it. Allow your medical team to weigh you and ask not to know the number. There is no number on that scale that will make you feel good about yourself. Your version of “too high” makes you feel awful, and your version of a “lower number” gives you encouragement to continue with symptomatic behaviour.
4. Correct yourself when you catch negative self-talk. There is no benefit to berating yourself or calling yourself names.
5. Stop ignoring your emotions When you feel yourself starting to feel anxiety and/or sadness and grief, remind yourself that all of your feelings are valid.
6. When you do something you regret, make a mistake, or feel embarrassed, give yourself some compassion. Being self-compassionate means acknowledging that you are human, that humans make mistakes, and that everyone goes through this experience. Hug yourself if it feels right!
7. You don’t need to cut your food into teeny-tiny pieces. It is unnecessary and reinforces your fear of food. Bite into your food with gusto instead of tearing off tiny pieces.
8. Stop using utensils for foods that are meant to be picked up. You can bite into things instead of cutting or breaking off small pieces first.
9. Reduce (if not eliminate) your consumption of social media. Take a break from scrolling through stories, images, and updates that make you compare yourself to others, or feel bad about yourself. Why spend hours intentionally looking at images and messages that reinforce exactly what you are trying to recover from? Instead of “following” friends and family, talk to them on the phone or go out and see them in person.
10. Don’t ignore your meal plan. It is essential to recovery, it helps you to be accountable for your food intake, it cuts down on thoughts about food, it reduces your food decision-making time, and it cuts cost when you make your grocery list directly from your meal plan.
Recovery is a long and hard road. Whether you have addressed the physical symptoms or not, these 10 tips can be an important part of your journey.
Take care of yourself, and remember to nourish your mind, body, and spirit.