Whenever we talk about dieting, we talk about the typical person that’s overweight. We never speak about underweight people. We never dare to talk about how recovering from an eating disorder affect the relationship between dieting and eating. And throughout the week, I’ve been trying to open up the conversation. Because I think it’s important to talk about other body types when we talk about health and dieting. After all, all bodies and experiences are different.
Today, I will be talking about eating disorders and how people recover from the effects of one struggle or can’t diet. And why we need to be careful when glorifying dieting.
Why we shouldn’t tell people in recovery to diet
The first thing to note is that if you are in recovery from an eating disorder. Particularly early on in the recovery process, a diet of any sort is not recommended. Because being on a diet that we typically use to lose weight restricts eating. And when you have an eating disorder, you are limiting your eating to an intense standard. Putting another restriction on your eating will pull a person back into a mindset to watch what they eat. It is highly likely to take a person out of recovery and back on to their eating disorder.
Relationship with food
Instead, what needs to happen is to focus on that person’s relationship with food and their mental health. Find out what causes them to have a hazardous way of eating, dieting and exercising.
One thing many people who work with those with eating disorders is breaking down the obsession with food. Making the person stop worrying about how many calories it has, what body parts it will affect and other things. Because its the obsession with food and the body that play a role in an eating disorder.
Something to remember
You have to remember that balancing and restricting food for whatever reason is a coping mechanism. Hence, it becomes an instinct why you need to break down the relationship with food and bring it back to speed.
Ways to help build that relationship back
I’ve researched and looked at some advice from nutritionists and general practitioners to narrow down tips to help support those with an eating disorder. However, whilst I’ve done as much research as possible, it may not be helpful to a specific situation. Always double-check with a doctor or nutritionist first!
Let yourself/ help them like food.
Now to the average person, this is second nature. You have to remember that people don’t let themselves eat what they enjoy and heavily restrict both portions and types of food with eating disorders. So you should support the person in enabling themselves to eat what they want. Greasy ribs, cupcakes, or grapes shouldn’t be off-limits anymore. Help them eat what they enjoy but never let it happen. It’ll help them understand that they can eat any way they like without guilt or restriction.
Recognise and stop your hunger
When people have an eating disorder, they restrict the amount they eat, which messes up the metabolism and has given them mechanisms to live for ages without suitable sustenance. Recognise when you are hungry/ eat at the correct times of the day and enjoy the meal fully.
Equally important is to tell when you are comfortably full. When your two complete (depending on the disorder), you get rid of it. And you don’t want to trigger that type of reaction, so remember not to continue eating when complete.
Remember, it is not just about food and the body. It is also about the mind. Try to find ways to process your emotions healthily through methods discussed in talking therapy or through a hobby.
This is also when I mention self-care and staying attune to what you need mentally. Enabling rest or whatever you need to remain mentally okay.
Anti diet environments are good.
One tip I saw which I think will be helpful is to join movements that are against dieting. As mentioned in the first paragraph, dieting after recovery will trigger the need to restrict food because of the intense nature of a diet and its need for exercise and the ‘right’ food. Considering how much media glorifies diets, it would be good to curate social media to not show stuff like that by muting hashtags. Whilst you can’t control the billboards and magazines that glorify things like this, you can have a bit of a say in what social media shows you. It won’t be 100% accurate, but it will help a bit, and it will help also help the way you see diets and food.
Ultimately, we need to be careful with how we see diets, recommend them to people, and not force them, especially as those with eating disorders need to go another direction and go deeper with the root cause than a diet.
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