[Trigger Warning | Eating Disorder & Food Rules]
Buckle up! This week we are diving into the slippery slope of food rules.
The interesting thing about having an eating disorder is how it sneaks up on you. I have yet to meet a person that just decided to one day turn it on like a light switch and voila, they have an eating disorder. It’s a slow creep, that seeps into your life almost without notice. Until one day your waist deep in sinking sand, fighting a serious battle.
The same goes for food rules. You don’t start out with a long list of food rules that you decide will be the guiding principles for your eating disorder. No. Slowly, but surely, your eating disorder latches on to little ideas, building upon everything it can. Until eventually, you have a set of rules the size of the dictionary dictating how and what you can or cannot eat. Talk about sinking sand!
Since I can really only speak from my experience on this topic, I will share some of the food rules that my eating disorder latched on to over the years and how I challenge them now.
Quick disclaimer: I know this type of content can be very triggering so please do not continue to read this if you feel it may in any way affect your progress or be at all triggering. I am sharing this information because food rules are extremely common with eating disorders however they are possible to overcome.
With that being said...
Rule #1: You can never eat more than one piece of bread at a time. Yes, that meant, I couldn't have more than half a sandwich or one piece of toast. I convinced myself that one slice was more than enough. But people eat sandwiches all of the time. In fact, I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A whole sandwich is a perfectly acceptable amount to eat for an adult, and my body needs the carbs for energy. (I fought my dietitian on this one for a while)
Rule #2: Macaroni and cheese is strictly prohibited. My absolute favorite food so logically I can never eat it. Yep, that makes sense. Somehow I managed to demonize macaroni and cheese. Yes, picture that. The Kraft blue box is now suddenly the devil. Seems silly I know, but not only did this become my number one fear food it was also a very strict food rule of mine. I can proudly say that I made macaroni and cheese last night and it was delicious. It took 6 years but I did it!
Rule #3: Regardless of how much is on your plate, you are never permitted to finish it. Not only is this wasteful but it meant that even if I dished up a very small portion, I couldn't finish what was on my plate. Like many other food rules, this took a lot of mindful practice. This particular rule was closely related to my fear of feeling full. I had to actively work with my dietitian to push myself to eat proper meal portions and alter the way I thought about food.
Rule #4: Restaurants must be avoided at all costs. Yes, maybe I saved a little money by never going out, but I also lost friendships because I avoided social gatherings that revolved around food and developed severe anxiety about going to restaurants. Anxiety that I continue to fight. It took a lot of challenging meals and a few sob sessions in the parking lot but I slowly built a case against myself that I could in fact eat at a restaurant and not self implode.
Rule #5: Feeling full is never acceptable. Ugh this was such a big one for me and was so triggering. I don’t remember how or when it started being an issue because again, it's not an overnight thing, but I absolutely could not handle the feeling of being full. Very quickly feeling full became associated with purging. It was such an uncomfortable feeling that I had to get rid of it immediately. However, one day I decided I was no longer going to purge anymore. Instead of fighting back against the urge with a coping skill, I avoided the feeling altogether by simply not eating enough to get full. I’m not going to lie, challenging this one was tough and took a long time. Ultimately, the most effective way for me to get through the discomfort was learning to ride the wave and continue to prove to myself that the feelings of discomfort and anxiety would subside. The more I did it, the easier it became.
Unfortunately, these were only some of my food rules. If I made a book it would probably be a couple inches thick, filled with frightening and downright strange rules that made a primal instinct an overwhelming challenge. I know I am not alone when it comes to these types of rules, but in the depths of my eating disorder, these rules made me feel more alone than ever. They were my eating disorder’s way of isolating me from healthy habits and maintaining control of my mind and body. It took a team of people to help me fight back against every distorted thought over a several years. Even in recovery I still struggle with negative thoughts and fight back against some of the disordered ideas I once lived by. But I assure you, food rules don’t have to dictate your life.
If you have struggled with food rules I would love to hear how you challenge them and fight back against your eating disorder. Please know, you are never alone and recovery is possible. If you are reading this and have never struggled, hopefully this post provides you with some insight into the mental battle that affects 1 in 10 women.
Until next week. XO
Disclaimer: Please note, all information on The Cheeky Life is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional care. The intention of this blog is to connect with the community and share my personal experiences with mental health, eating disorders, and life in general. All opinions are my own.