Advice by Kaela: Letting Go Of Food Rules
By Kaela Scott
Q: I know that part of recovery is learning to normalize eating food but this feels really tough. Any suggestions on how to make it easier?
A: In my eating disorder counselling practice, I get asked multiple times a week about whether or not it is safe to eat certain foods. Clients will send messages with their dinner plans and ask if it is okay for them to eat that food or if what they are eating is too much. While I am of course here to provide support, I also think it is important to realize that one of the main jobs of recovery is to say yes to pretty much every food opportunity and option that comes your way and to train yourself to realize that food isn't what hurts you.
In recovery, very little is actually about food, but on the flip side, each person needs to develop a healthy relationship with nourishing their bodies and supplying their body with the food it requires to live a positive, energetic life. The disorder, when in control, places endless restrictions on what is allowed vs what isn't and what is safe vs. unsafe. These rules, generally, have nothing to do with nutrition (a registered dietician would almost never make those recommendations) and everything to do with the abusive role the disorder plays. While I understand that some people may have some preferences, for example not loving meat, overall one of your jobs in recovery is to recognize that the problem lies with the disordered rules, not the food itself. While it is really hard to practice saying yes after saying no to so many things for so long, I genuinely believe it is one of the best pushes you can give yourself. Not only will it help with normalized eating, but it will also decrease how long the disorder still gets to have say in your life.
If you choose to move forward in this way, I would encourage you to give yourself a pep talk to acknowledge that while this will make you anxious, the anxiety is only there because the disorder is there. Individuals who have healthy relationships with themselves and their bodies don’t get anxious about eating certain food groups, eating regularly, going out to dinner etc. As with most things recovery related, we want to remind ourselves that the disorder is the problem, not our healthy goals. Try to remind yourself that there is no expectation that normalized eating feel “normal” or safe for you to begin with. We all understand how hard and challenging taking these steps can be so be sure to show yourself compassion for challenging the ingrained thought processes of the disorder.
So with that, try to practice saying yes a little bit more this week. Be brave. My promise to you is that there is absolutely no food (with the exception of legitimate allergies) that will be even remotely as toxic and detrimental to your system and health as your disorder will be. I assure you, nothing will be different about you tomorrow except for the fact that you just moved yourself closer to the freedom you are really seeking.
Kaela Scott is a Registered Clinical Counsellor who specializes in Eating Disorders. She runs her own private practice and works with the Looking Glass Foundation in both their summer camp and their Hand In Hand Program. She has been passionate about working with eating disorders since freeing herself from her own struggle and realizing what it is like to be happy and well. When she isn’t working, you can find Kaela either cozying up with a cup of tea and her friends or up in the mountains going for a hike.