Learning to Become an Intuitive Eater in Recovery from Bulimia

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Group Of Friends Having Outdoor Barbeque At HomeBulimia Nervosa is a serious mental health illness that is characterized by reoccurring episodes of binging and purging. For the individual who may be suffering with bulimia, a chaotic relationship with food often results, in which a person feels unable to eat certain foods without purging or is unsure about how to eat normally.

Because of the many complexities that are involved with bulimia, working with a professional treatment team is crucial to reestablishing a healthy relationship with food and body once again.

Encouraging Intuitive Eating

Throughout the journey of recovery from bulimia, an individual is encouraged to become an intuitive eater once again. Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches individuals how to establish a healthy relationship with body, mind and food and to truly become an expert of one’s own body.

Through the intuitive eating approach, individuals are guided to honor their body and distinguish between emotional and physical feelings. In a disorder like bulimia, where there is often a disruption between body and mind, learning to become an intuitive eater can be a challenging feat.

Bulimia Behaviors Need to End First

Parent With Adult Children Enjoying Party In GardenIntuitive eating cannot be learned when one is actively engaged in the disease of bulimia. For example, a person who is having repeated episodes of binging on abnormal amounts of food and then following this by purging, will have a interference with normal digestive processes in the body.

This can distort a person’s natural ability to regulate hunger and fullness and impede signals of appetite. Eating disorders are diseases that often ignore the body’s most basic cues. Most individuals with bulimia typically do not eat when experiencing hunger or eat beyond a point of fullness during a binge. These repeated behaviors destroy the body’s ability to eat intuitively.

To begin the process of becoming an intuitive eater again, one must be active in recovery and abstinent from bulimic behaviors. The body needs a chance to heal physically and be restored to baseline levels in order for an individual to relearn what it means to be hungry and full and how to appropriately honor these cues. Any medical concerns or complications that may have resulted from bulimia must be addressed, including electrolyte imbalances, cardiovascular complications or digestive issues.

Preparing a Meal Plan

When it comes to food, many individuals recovering from bulimia may not know what are adequate portions or how to eat a healthy, balanced meal. This is where a registered dietitian can be a helpful part of the recovery process from bulimia. A registered dietitian, who is a trained professional in food and nutrition, can help guide the recovery process by recommending a meal plan, which can be a helpful tool in knowing what and how much to eat.

A meal plan is intended to be a guide to help an individual recovering from bulimia relearn how to eat normally. Once this has been established, a person can begin to learn how to eat intuitively once again.

Intuitive eating can also be guided through the help of a registered dietitian. This process happens gradually by recognizing the body’s natural cues and learning how to honor them appropriately. A person can learn how to gauge their hunger and fullness and eat accordingly.

Intuitive Eating Is Tough but Possible

happy-mom-and-child-cookingBecoming an intuitive eater can seem like a far-fetched fantasy for someone who is in the throes of bulimia. The journey of recovery can bring you back to basics, allowing you to heal body and mind, listen to and honor the basic cues given by the body.

Intuitive eating is about learning to govern your food choices according to your body’s wants and needs: not though diet books or magazines or any external force that seeks to drive your desires. Becoming an intuitive eater can be one of the most freeing aspects gained in the recovery process from bulimia nervosa.

If you or someone you love is yearning to get to this point, be sure to work with your treatment team and registered dietitian to learn intuitive eating through your recovery from bulimia.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Are you or someone you care for in recovery from bulimia? What aspects of this eating disorder can make it difficult to become an intuitive eater?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 19th, 2015
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com