I am unsure if I should get help. I’ve had a history of eating disorders (anorexia, binge eating) for about 20 years, and over the years, I have found that I relapsed less and less. I want to be able to be “steady” rather than up and down, so that I can do various activities. I don’t know whether it just takes time and I will get there, or whether it indicates that I need help. I decided a few months back to try counseling. However, instead of improving I feel I am far worse as I am focusing more on my problems and feel I’ve gone back several years. I’m unsure what to do now, whether to stop counseling and try to get back to where I was or get more support. Also what is recovery? After a lifetime of disordered eating, I have now gotten to the point where I eat what I want to eat when I’m hungry and no longer have the urges to binge. I sometimes overeat when I’m stressed but then I think everyone does from time to time. I’ve been at a treatment center which really helped, especially with regards to low self esteem. I no longer want to speak negatively towards myself. Since I’ve been back initially I was doing fine, or so I thought, but now I’m being challenged to change in other areas, and I feel so vulnerable and low again. I’m scared I’m going to go backwards. I guess my dietitian thinks I’m ‘managing’ and not seeking full recovery. I’m avoiding binging by weighing some foods, e.g. rice/pasta. I do this as a means of avoiding wastage as I know how much I need to cook and how much fills me up. I guess it’s also a way of preventing me from overeating/binging. Similarly I tend to avoid large packets of things for fear of binging, so I manage by buying sweet foods singularly. So I’m not avoiding them; I’m just doing what I consider sensible and safe. I don’t know why but I also weigh myself daily. I no longer worry if my weight goes up a few pounds. I guess I just want to keep it in a healthy range. It has just become a habit. My dietitian thinks I’m managing my body like a machine, and instead of being flexible, I am being rigid in what I allow myself. I’m so scared. I’ve come so far that if I let go now, I will end up in a mess with just binging, etc. I don’t know what to do and am tired of thinking about food. I don’t know if I should just stop seeing my aftercare team, as I think food wouldn’t be such as issue if I did, but I guess I would continue with my ways of coping. Is this wrong? The other thing is they want me to eat only full fat versions. I don’t understand why this is necessary if my weight has been in the healthy range for a long time. Surely with all the evidence to reduce saturated fats, it makes sense to have a mixture of low and high fat foods, which is what I do currently. I would be grateful for your opinion. Thank you.
Sometimes it helps to step back and look at the big picture. My first reaction from reading your letter is that you have come very far and made tremendous progress in your recovery process. Allow yourself to celebrate that!
But the work is not done, and I strongly urge you to continue with your aftercare team. You have had a positive experience overall; trust that they are going to continue to help you, even when they challenge you to make more changes. Your dietitian recognizes that you are still in the grip of some black and white thinking and perfectionism—you fear you will lose control if you don’t weigh foods and eat what you think is the perfect amount. The reality is that our bodies are flexible, and we are not machines, programmed to eat exactly the same way every day, since our activity level varies on a daily basis. It sounds like you have reached a point in recovery where you are no longer dependent on a specific meal plan, and your dietitian wants you to experience that flexibility—and the freedom to know that a binge won’t be triggered if you eat a little differently. Everyone has slips from time to time, but that doesn’t have to lead to a full relapse.
I am not opposed to buying small amounts of sweet foods (rather than large packaging) as you strive to make healthy choices. This can be sensible, but again, your dietitian may be concerned that for you right now, this is part of a perfectionist, fear-based approach to eating.
Your need to weigh yourself every day is more evidence that you are walking in fear of losing control. It’s wonderful that you no longer worry when your weight fluctuates a few pounds higher, but you are still somewhat tied to the scale.
Without the benefit of a full assessment or knowing your weight and intake history, I can’t address why your team wants you to continue to eat full fat versions of all foods. You are still “in process” in terms of recovery, and I suggest you ask your dietitian to explain her reasoning. She is looking at your total diet and perhaps your saturated fat intake is at an acceptable level, even with consuming some full fat foods. Or she may be concerned that your calorie intake tends to be too low to meet your body’s needs.
We have lots of videos on our site to encourage you on your recovery journey. Check out the “Practical Recovery Tips” section for some helpful ideas. You have come so far, but don’t stop short. Confidence, freedom and peace are possible.
Ann Capper, RD, CDN