I've recently received a few questions/comments about good foods vs. bad foods and how they are viewed during various stages of recovery. This can be a very touchy subject for some people due to the multiple meal planning strategies and individuality of the recovery process; however, I do believe there is a little common ground between all of us that can be addressed in this post. Here are two comments that I thought many of us could benefit from discussing and please feel free to add your two sense if you feel I missed something!
"I don't think my team wants me to gain anymore weight, which is another reason why its been harder for me to eat. When my weight was lower I always had the 'excuse' that I needed to gain weight so if once in a while I ate something 'bad' then it was okay. Now that I'm at a healthy weight I feel like I have no excuse to eat many of the foods I ate to gain the weight. I guess that in my mind those foods = weight gain and since I don't need to gain weight I can't justify eating them."
I can see where this would be an extremely common fear once an individual begins the maintenance phase of recovery. Personally, I didn't struggle with this thanks to the strategies and constant fear food challenges used at my treatment center, but I did have a hard time believing I would not continue gaining weight on maintenance calories.
The best thing my treatment center taught us is "a calorie is a calorie is a calorie." Whether I'm eating 200 calories from a salad or a cookie, my weight will ultimately remain the same. One of the best parts of recovery is that freedom to eat whatever the hell I want (within reason, of course). If you think about "normal eaters," they eat things like pizza, ice cream cones, and bacon regularly without gaining weight, so why we can't do the same? Believe it or not, there are still nutrients in pizza and sometimes our bodies just need a pizza night with good friends.
I did not continue to gain weight, although I did continue to eat "bad" foods every single day while on maintenance. Actually, some of those "bad" foods are less filling than eating a bunch of veggies, which often made them more appealing. It's amazing how the body and metabolism adjust as we go through life.
Trust in your body.
It will take care of you.
"I get into the idea of eating super healthy and clean, raw, vegan, low fat and everything because people were talking about the endless benefits. But now after a few days I already start to question it. It feels restricted and triggering to under eat (nobody would notice it anyway because it LOOKS like a lot of food) and it feels like giving up freedom/full recovery. Which is what I always wanted. Vegetarian/vegan makes sense to me for ethical reasons.
I'm learning so much about how "bad" and "unhealthy" some foods are I used to eat (and thought they were healthy). I'm too worried to eat them because I don't want to risk my health long term. I'm feeling so trapped now."
This is a problem for many of us in recovery. Before entering treatment, I fully believed in the clean, local foods, and vegetarian/vegan way of eating because of all the health benefits. Yes, most packaged foods do contain unnatural ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, food dyes, and other ingredients that I can't pronounce, but in moderation these foods have not affected my health in a negative way.
I'm not saying there is anything wrong with being a vegetarian or eating healthy, but I do think that during the early stages of recovery those food rituals do need to be given up. By holding onto that "healthy" eating mindset, you are also holding onto the control the eating disorder has over your life. Maybe someday in the future when a better relationship with food is developed, clean eating can be reintroduced again, but why waste this opportunity to enjoy those oh-so-yummy chocolately treats while you can?
Actually, I think restricting to those extremes will cause more health problems than having a brownie every now and then. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not constantly worrying about which foods we can and cannot eat. Just like the first question, recovery is about FREEDOM. Following rigid, trendy diets only leads us further away from recovery. Anytime a meal plan or diet makes you feel trapped, it's a problem.
Ultimately, I think those of us in recovery need to remember that our diets might be different than those around us for the time being. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with us or that we are being "unhealthy;" it simply means we are doing what is needed to take care of ourselves at this time in our lives. As we learn to listen to our bodies, we will have the freedom to eat the foods we are craving - whether it is an apple or a piece of apple pie.
Freedom seems to be the key word in this post. My plan for this week is to live and eat freely - because I can.