Recovery From Disordered Eating to Intuitive Eating
I’ve talked openly about my struggles with anxiety and depressive episodes over the years; I have not talked about my history with disordered eating. Part of the reason I have not talked about it is that it never occurred to me that my relationship with food or how I ate was disordered. Over the past year, I’ve worked on unpacking my unhealthy relationship with food and am working to improve my relationship with food.
I was raised in a family in which my parents regularly dieted, and conversations around body fat were always negative. I learned from a young age; I should eat a certain way to keep my body fit and small. I struggled with my body image in my pre-teen, teen and well into my twenties.
Bad vs. Good aka Moralizing Food
When you have a doughnut or an apple in your hand, do you label one as good or bad? I sure did, it was how I was raised, it was reinforced by magazines, media, and people around me. I was a good person if I chose the apple over the doughnut and I would be rewarded with a smaller body if I chose “good” foods.
Moralizing food had led me to restrict and binge, while I don’t have a classification of having an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, I teetered on the lines of orthorexia (an eating disorder characterized by avoiding specific foods in the belief they are harmful) for years. I was afraid if I ate anything that was not “clean” and unprocessed, I would gain weight or get sick.
After I realized I had an issue with food and my body image, I started to practice intuitive eating. Intuitive Eating is an anti-diet philosophy based on eating when your internal hunger cues let you know you're hungry and allowing yourself to eat different foods without guilt. The philosophy rejects the diet mentality as one of the ten principles of Intuitive Eating. I had heard about it in the past, and a few of my friends practice Intuitive Eating to heal their relationship with food, so I thought I would give it a try.
I worked on eating foods I struggled with eating in the past, and I allowed myself to eat them without guilt. Over time, I was able to eat previously restricted foods without guilt or anxiety. I gained weight, and for me, it was a sign that I was restricting and not giving my body the nutrients it needed.
About 6 months into working on my recovery, I had conversations with those around me who continually perpetuate diet culture messages. I discussed my history with restricting and binging, and while some people were receptive and compassionate, others did not understand. I had to limit my time spent with these people. I found being around people who talk about body fat as a negative, food as the enemy or their diet and weight loss triggering. I learned that in order to recover in a healthy way, I had to limit or cut-out people who did not support my recovery.
As someone who is semi-newish to disordered eating recovery, I can say the past year has been challenging and enlightening. I had to unlearn moralizing food, lean into weight gain, and establish strong boundaries and limit time spent with those who I love, but don’t understand my recovery. For anyone who is struggling with disordered eating, just remember you are not alone. I’ve provided additional resources below.
Eating Disorder, Health At Every Size, Intuitive Eating Resources and Blogs:
Written by Amanda Shea