Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope
Recovering from an eating disorder involves a new perspective on food and body. Due to the amount of misinformation available at our fingertips, there is often overwhelming confusion about food in general. Many people feel unsure about how to eat, what to eat, how much to eat, and so forth. In combination with a society that is constantly promoting dieting, it is no wonder that countless individuals experience a chaotic relationship with food and their bodies.
Abnormal Food Relationships
Having an eating disorder also severely distorts and disrupts a normal relationship with food and eating. Individuals who struggling with an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder, typically experience strong emotions with eating, consuming certain foods, or not eating at all, such as guilt, anger, shame, sadness, frustration, anxiety and more. In addition, people with eating disorders also have obsessive thoughts about food and their bodies, which also contributes to irregular and abnormal eating habits.
Being in recovery involves a process of relearning the basics about food, nutrition, and the body. When under the influence of an eating disorder, normal hunger and fullness cues are usually lost as they are repeatedly ignored. For example, a person with anorexia may feel famished but will continually deny and override the basic hunger cues that signal that the body needs food. Getting back to these basic principles is crucial for learning how to adequately and properly feed your body and honor the foundational cues that are body is capable of giving us.
Using Our Intuition
Intuitive eating is a philosophy that encourages people to become the expert of their own bodies once more. Since there is often a disconnect between body and mind with any type of chronic dieting, abnormal eating, or eating disorders, practicing the principles of intuitive eating allows an individual to get back in touch to the innate wisdom that guides normal and natural eating.
When learning to become an intuitive eater once again, there is often a fear of being “out of control” without the guidance of external rules dictating when and what to eat. However, it is breaking free from food rules that allows a person to begin to understand and recognize what it is that their body wants and desires.
It’s a Process
The process of becoming an intuitive eater and making peace with food and your body is not something that happens over night. It requires diligence and commitment to the journey, particularly as years of abnormal eating habits are undone. Intuitive eating begins by learning to tune in to your body’s natural instincts while tuning out external distractions. If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, it is important to understand that intuitive eating is something that is typically introduced in the later phases of recovery. A person cannot trust their own body if they are malnourished or suffering with severe consequences from the eating disorder. While some of the basic principles of intuitive eating can be practiced, an individual with an eating disorder should be weight restored (if necessary), eating regularly and adequately, and maintaining a normal weight for stature.
Intuitive eating occurs by practice. The basic principles of intuitive eating include the practice of gentle nutrition, legalizing food, ignoring the “food police”, and more. If you are in recovery from an eating disorder and looking to become an intuitive eater, consider working with a registered dietitian who specializes in this area. Finding freedom from food rules and learning how to honor your body takes practice, patience, and support. Having the outside support of health care professionals can be helpful during this process as well as encourage you though the journey of learning to make peace with food and your body.
Remember to be patient with yourself and give yourself the time you need to be successful in the process of intuitive eating.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
How has the practice of intuitive eating helped you in your own recovery? What encouragement might you share with another individual in recovery who is also learning to eat intuitively and make peace with food?
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 3, 2015. Published on EatingDisorderHope.com