Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.


And now for an entry taken from the Topics page.

The questions

How do you cope with the very real relationship that food has for someone with an ED, in all stages of an ED: active, in treatment, recovery/recovered?  Describe your relationship with food, now and then, what you found easiest and most difficult in your journey.

I have a feeling this may take more than one entry.  As do a lot of my topics.

We’re always told “The eating disorder isn’t about the food or the weight; there are underlying issues that need to be dealt with.”  But food has to be dealt with, too.

When I was actively anorexic, food was an excuse.  I couldn’t go to social events that included food.  I couldn’t eat if I hadn’t exercised.  I couldn’t eat certain foods just because (there really was no logic to why I cut out certain foods.  I was never a calorie counter or a fat counter.  I would just one day decide that food was no longer okay to eat, regardless of whether it was healthy or not).  I was terrified of food.  I hated being seen while eating.  I hated going out to dinner and having to decide what to get off the menu.  It was painful to make that decision.  I hated food.  I knew it was necessary, and I knew I needed some of it in order to do my ridiculous exercise regimen, but I hated the taste, the texture, the fullness, the act of swallowing.

(Some of my fears/hatred of food stems from early childhood sexual abuse and rape and the equation of forced oral sex with swallowing.  This was dealt with both from an eating disorder therapy standpoint and a trauma therapy standpoint.)

While I was in treatment.  Obviously, the first thing that was taken away from me was my control–what I ate and when and how much.  The first hospitalizations, I never got over the hatred of this.  But during the last two, when I was ready to recover, after the initial rebellion/discomfort at the lack of control, it was actually a relief to have someone else make those decisions for me.  The hospital I was at gave us choices–each day we chose from a list of entrees and sides and the nutritionist made sure we were meeting all of our requirements–but I think I realized that I had to trust my treatment team with the food requirements.

At first, I relied on safer foods–things I had eaten before, things that didn’t terrify me as much as the other options.  My breakfasts were pretty much the same every day for awhile and then I decided to try french toast and stray from my normal scrambled eggs routine.  I survived.  And I remembered that it tasted good (for hospital food).

At this hospital, we had Therapeutic Lunch once a week.  It was always a combination food, served buffet style, and always challenged several different fears at once.  I hated those days.  Chinese stir fry.  Pizza.  Mediterranean sandwiches.  Pulled pork sandwiches.  Subs.  But a strange thing happened through those lunches–I learned that I could eat those things.  That nothing bad would happen to me if I did.  And I discovered some new foods that I had never eaten before now love.  In fact, tonight I just went to a friend’s house where a bunch of us have Sunday potluck dinners or themed dinners.  And tonight was make your own pizza night.  And I was able to make my pizza, eat it, enjoy it, and have fun.

After treatment:  I stuck with my meal plan religiously for awhile, afraid that if I strayed, I would relapse completely.  I had this tendency to eat the same exact thing at the same exact time every day.  That way I knew I was getting was I needed.  But there was no variety, and there certainly wasn’t any fun.  My nutritionist thought it was important that I not eat from a meal plan, but learn to eat based on hunger cues and what sounded good at the time.  We started by adding variety into my diet, and then we started rating hunger and satiety before and after meals so I could learn when my body naturally wanted to eat and when it was full.

I remember one day I was walking home from work and I was exhausted.  I had spent most of the weekend at the bedside of a friend in ICU and then went to work the following day.  I went into a corner-store and stared at all the frozen dinners and was too tired to make a decision.  Then I saw the ice cream.  And I grabbed a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and went home, sat in front of the TV, ate all of it and went to sleep.  I was terrified my nutritionist was going to yell at me for that.  Instead, she told me that what I did was perfectly normal.  It wouldn’t be normal if I had that for dinner on a daily basis, but I was stressed, emotionally and physically exhausted, and wanted something comforting.

Today:  I eat.  There are still some foods that are difficult–casseroles and lasagna.  I don’t have to remind myself to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  And I only plan ahead for dinner because I have to know what kind of meat to take out of the freezer in the morning.  Usually at meal times, I look in my cupboards or fridge and find something that looks good.  There are no foods I won’t let myself have.  I make a conscious effort to get fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet every day.  I can go out to dinner with friends and order whatever I want without guilt.

Four years ago, a get together like tonight would have been impossible for me.  A bunch of peers socializing around food.  Eating food.  Laughing.  I would have been sipping diet coke and nibbling on tortilla chips and waiting until I could leave–if I even went at all.  But now I can go and participate and relax and come home and be glad I have the group of friends I do.


September 27, 2009 - Posted by | Eating Disorders, health, recovery, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Thanks! My RD is working on moving away from the MP and to hunger cues. I’m scared out of my mind about that. This is working why do you want to change it now?

    This showed me why she wants to change it.

    Comment by David | September 28, 2009 | Reply

    • For me it was all about steps. First the meal plan, then flexibility with the meal plan, then more to eating when i’m hungry and stopping when i’m full. Now I’m still clinging to a weekly weight at the center for eating disorders and will probably be phasing that out soon.

      “Intuitive eating” has offered me a lot of freedom and a lot more fun with what i eat. I still find i eat about the same amount everyday, which is good i think. One day I came in to IOP and i had eaten a bit more than normal, an extra snack, and i was so scared to tell my tx team! But they ended up telling me that it was normal and at the place in recovery i was in (7-8 months) it was totally fine for me to eat a bit less one day, a bit more the next.

      Anyway, steps are very helpful! I’m sure you can do it. 🙂

      Comment by Amanda G-M | September 28, 2009 | Reply

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