When I think of facing fear foods, I am instantly taken back to a very specific moment in treatment.
On my third or fourth day, before I was planning my own meals, I walked into the kitchen to see two Little Debbie zebra cakes on my plate. At the time, I was also doing my best to stop taking anti-anxiety medications before meals, prescribed to me at my previous treatment center, but those zebra cakes sent me sprinting to the nurse's office demanding my meds.
One part of my eating disorder I do not talk about very often is my binge/purge cycle. Countless trips were made to the grocery store, only to come home with grocery bags filled with the cheapest junk food I could get my hands on. During a state of starvation, it didn't really matter what I ate, as long as I could binge as a way to numb out for the time being.
As much as I hate to admit it, even while I was in culinary school, Little Debbies were one of the many binge foods I ate on a regular basis. So, sitting down to eat the zebra cakes in treatment, not only meant eating way more sugar and fat grams than I usually would in a week, it also brought back all of those awful binge/purge memories.
One of the most common fears in recovery is fat grams. Any food that contains even a trace of fat can send off trigger red flags for many. Fat, however, plays a very important role in proper functioning of the human body.
-Provides energy storage-Helps vitamins A, D, E, and K be properly adsorbed in the bloodstream-Body temperature control through insulation-Essential fatty acids are not naturally produced by the body, only through the diet
If you need more convincing that fat is crucial in a successful recovery, there was a study done recently to prove it:
*"Lindsay P. Bodell and Laurel E.S. Mayer MD, of New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York City, have targeted what they feel is an important relapse risk factor for AN patients, the percentage of body weight after weight restoration. In an earlier study, the authors had identified the percentage of body fat as a factor that increased the risk of relapse among 26 AN patients. In a newer study reported in the International Journal of Eating Disorders (2010), the researchers found that a lower percentage of adipose tissue after short-term weight normalization was associated with a poorer outcome during the first year after inpatient treatment.
Of the 21 participants, the outcome for 10 was categorized as "full," "good," or "fair," but for 11 others, it was "poor." As the authors had expected, there was a significant difference in body mass index, or BMI between the full, good, or fair results groups and the poor outcome group: 20.8 kg/m2 vs.16.2 kg/m2, respectively."
In addition to all of this information supporting fat in the diet, I have forgotten to mention the return of the menstrual cycle in girls recovering from eating disorders; a certain amount of body fat is needed for this to regulate. This is important if having children is a future goal.
Facing fear foods and fat grams was really scary for me in the beginning, but every time I did it, it became a tiny bit easier. Without any fat in my diet, I would not be able to enjoy some of my favorite foods; such as, chocolate, peanut butter, bacon, cheese, ice cream, dark chocolate roasted almonds, and avocados. At one time, these were all considered high risk fear foods for me and would instantly send me into the binge/purge cycle, but now I can enjoy them on a daily basis.
Some days I feel as though recovery has put too much fat on my body. However, if it means my body will function better and there is a smaller chance of relapsing, I will gladly accept the fat.
*Judith D. Banker, PhD and Kelly L. Klump, PhD
Eating Disorders Review
July/August 2010 Volume 21, Number 4