Eating Intuitively After Recovery
Having started my eating disorder recovery in Dec 2018 and hitting my overshoot weight in April 2019, I have been stable at a healthy weight for over a year without any relapse.
The way I eat during and after recovery changes as my need for food and energy reduces.
Why Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is an eating style that promotes a healthy attitude toward food and body image. The idea is that you should eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Though this should be an intuitive process, for many people it's not.
Intuitive eating helps chronic dieters get back in tune with their body's unique needs, rather than rely on external food rules to determine what, when, and how much they eat.
People with eating disorders like to use food as their main focus point in life where they are in control of it.
Therefore, intuitive eating helps you break free of it as it allows you to stop putting food as your main focus in life. This gives you the opportunity to adopt a healthier relationship with food which is better for your mental state.
Intuitive eating takes time as it is a journey for you to discover and be in tune with your own body. It takes work to get to a place where you can get rid of the dieting mindset.
But before getting there, you have to take a huge emotional leap and make massive behavioural changes. You need to stop your compulsive desire to control your food and weight.
How Much Food?
First of all, intuitive eating means going by how you are feeling that day. During recovery, I was eating 5 meals a day. As of now, I generally eat 3 main meals a day. I rarely snack and have no desire to as my meals are satisfying and nourishing to my body.
Everybody is different and some prefer to eat 5 meals a day while others prefer to eat 2 meals a day. Personally, 3 is the ideal number that works best for my lifestyle.
The key is to listen to your body and eat intuitively. (NOTE: Please do not attempt this if you have not been recovered and relapse-free for at least 6 months.) This is because you need to know what a normal portion of food is for a meal so when you do eat intuitively, you can eat +/- that amount.
If you feel less hungry, maybe leave 10-20% of the meal out. And if you feel hungrier, eat 10-20% more than what you usually do.
Overall, your goal should be to consume a well-balanced healthy meal. This will result in less cravings. If you feel that you always crave sweet junk food loaded with sugar, eat a fruit after your meal. That should help reduce your cravings. And of course, when you do you have a big craving, go and enjoy it.
This is because when you overly restrict and control your cravings for too long, you will end up binge-eating which is just going to be more harmful and damaging to your body and your mental state.
There has been a lot of craze with intermittent fasting (16:8) which refers to an 8-hour eating window (e.g. 11am-7pm) and a 16-hour fasting window (e.g. 7pm to 11am).
I have tried it before and I felt that 2 meals a day is not enough to satisfy me as I am unable to stomach 3 meals worth of food into 2 meals. Hence, I ended up only eating 2 meals and I get hungry and lack of energy.
When I get too hungry, I am unable to fall asleep which affects my body’s recovery. Eating 2 big meals instead of 3 medium meals also causes me to feel bloated and uncomfortable as well.
If you are someone with a big appetite and can fit in your daily amount of food into 2 big meals, sure go ahead. From what I have seen, people with eating disorders generally have smaller appetites so I would highly suggest against it. Instead, eat however many meals you need to make you feel satisfied.
Intuitive Eating During Recovery
Looking back, throughout my recovery, I have been doing intuitive eating and I believe it is the fastest way to recover from an eating disorder. The minimum meal plan of 3500 calories a day is just that: A MINIMUM.
For people who are recovering from eating disorder, if they actually listen to their mental hunger and eat intuitively, they will be consuming much more than that; upwards of 5-6000 calories.
Just continue eating that way, while following the minimum guidelines, and over time, your need for food will naturally dwindle just like mine. Soon, you will be consuming similar amounts of food as your family and friends.
Treat your body with love, patience and care.