Sticking to Your Meal Plan While Battling Body Image Issues

Woman eating, not overeating

Contributor: Stephanie Ceranec, Med, LCPC, Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.

Eating disorders manifest in myriad ways due to a variety of reasons. One component they all have in common is an unhealthy relationship with food.

This unhealthy relationship with food is why residential and inpatient treatment programs alike share the same goal of helping the individual return to some sense of normality regarding food.

Typically, this starts with a meal plan, one that can be followed for a long period of time.

Meal Plan

It must be understood that a meal plan is highly individualized. It isn’t manufactured according to some formula—it is created for that exact person, factoring in size, lifestyle, and the amount of weight that needs to be gained or lost.

The goal of any meal plan is to exactly provide what that person needs on a daily basis to thrive and regain health. It also serves as a bridge.

The human body offers itself many cues on any given day. If an alarm clock is not involved, the body will provide wake-up cues when enough sleep has been enjoyed. Stay in the sun too long, and the skin will start to burn.

Similarly, the body has natural cues to inform itself when it is hungry or full. When an eating disorder is present, these cues go haywire because normality has been lost.

Woman struggling with body imageYet, in time, these natural cues will return; therefore the meal plan keeps everything on course until though cues are reestablished. As you follow the plan, be aware of positive changes, regardless of how minor.

Perhaps you feel more alert, more energetic; maybe you are experiencing better sleep. All of these are positive and worth noting. Along those lines, intentionally appreciate what your body does for you: your legs walk you around; your hands allow you to pet a dog or cat; your eyes permit you to see the beauty around you.

Following a meal plan means exactly that: following it. How is this accomplished day after day? One word: trust.

Trust & Honesty

Trust that the professionals that created the plan have your best interest at heart; trust yourself to remain committed to your health and future. Trust that the advice you received to throw out the bathroom scale is absolutely valid.

In addition to trusting yourself and others, try to commit to honesty. Be honest in support groups, in therapy, with friends and family, and especially, with yourself.

Woman holding lights

If you are having a challenging or difficult day, acknowledge it to yourself and others. Lies and deception often go hand-in-hand with an eating disorder. You are not that person anymore; don’t give your former disorder the satisfaction of watching you be untruthful.

Many aspects of recovery focus on the body, and for good reason. Equally, you must focus on the renewing of your mind, particularly how you see yourself. It is time to find a sense of peace with your appearance.

Negative body image is a hard thing to eradicate, but you can do it. It starts by being mindful of where you place your attention throughout the day. Notice how much time you spend on thinking about your PHYSICAL body, especially when thoughts are negative.

Stop being judge mental and hypercritical of yourself. Similarly, stop comparing yourself to others, whether it be a friend or a celebrity. There is nothing positive to be gained by that type of internal dialogue.

With the exception of participating in positive self-care such as attending support groups, taking part a yoga class or making it to medical appointments, to the best of your ability, TRY TO take your focus off of you.

Instead, redirect your attention to the world around you. See what aspect of your community is in need; there is probably an animal shelter that could use a dog walker, or perhaps there is a nursing home where residents need someone to read their mail to them.

It is a simple choice: you can spend an hour in front of a mirror obsessing about your skin, thighs, hair quality, or you can give love to a rescue dog or read to someone who can’t see. For that block of time, you are giving to another instead of taking from yourself.

There is certainly a great deal to confront while in recovery. But remember your goal: to live a life of health, value, balance, and abundance.

Stephanie Ceranec photoAbout the author: Stephanie Ceranec, MEd, LCPC, oversees the Eating Disorder Specialist team. She provides awareness, training and education to clinical and support staff. In addition, Stephanie provides group therapy and works in a collaborative team effort in providing eating disorder treatment.

Stephanie began at Timberline Knolls as a Behavioral Health Specialist and found her path as an Eating Disorder Specialist. Prior to Timberline, Stephanie worked in a Chicago Public School and assisted individuals with disabilities to build connections in the community through activities and exposures.

Stephanie received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Eastern Illinois University and Masters in Education with a focus on both School and Community Counseling from DePaul University.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on September 1, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 1, 2017.
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