Tiffany Asks: I’m doing well in recovery, but I was wondering how much involvement with food is ok. Is it ok to work a food / nutrition related job? Is it ok to watch Food Network? Or are these signs of obsession?
Great question! As a person who has a lot of experience in the world of food, I can tell you that many of my clients have been very involved in food-related jobs, interests, and hobbies while in the throws of their eating disorders, only to find out that when they get better, they lose many of these interests. Some of them have actually studied it in college but then switched majors when they realized they really didn’t enjoy it as much as they had thought they would. Others have continued to study it and enjoy it, long after they had been doing well in recovery. It’s very hard to know whether it is a true pleasure or if it is an obsession as a result of your eating disorder until you are very far into the process of recovery, or dare I say, recovered.
If you are currently doing well in recovery, try to ask yourself “will this food involvement trigger me to get worse, help me get better or have no effect on my recovery?” If you think it is triggering you or contributing to making you worse, it is not a good idea to invest energy into it. If is not triggering you to get worse or actually feels like it is helping you get better, then it’s probably just fine. Many of my clients have found that working in a food environment is the most challenging and triggering.
Anonymous Asks: Ever heard of on-demand eating? What is it?
On-demand eating is intuitive eating, which means eating what you want to eat when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. It is the kind of eating that many non-disordered people do with ease. It does not involve counting calories, fat grams, carbohydrate grams, or exchanges. It does not include weighing or measuring food, or rigid food rules. It absolutely does not involve dieting. If you have suffered from an eating disorder, it requires a significant amount of mindfulness, being very attuned to your emotions and trust in the process. It is imperfect. Mistakes are made when you may overeat or undereat. It has quite a learning curve so you need to be patient and hopeful!
Maria asks: How am I supposed to know if a craving that I am experiencing is based on nutritional needs or emotional needs?
It’s often extremely difficult to determine whether a craving is nutritional or emotional. You have to practice being in tune with your hunger, fullness, appetite and emotions to really gain a full understanding of your cravings.
Many people have cravings. Most “normal” cravings vary. They may be one type of food on one day and a completely different type of food on another day. One day you might crave ice cream, the next day, steak, and salad on another day.
If you have consistently deprived yourself of a particular food or food category (like bread, for example), you most definitely will crave this food. You may be able to suppress it for a period of time, but it will most likely unleash itself at some point. It will be powerful and difficult to fight, the more you avoid this food. This would not necessarily be a nutritional craving, but a deprivation-driven craving.
If you give yourself a variety of foods on a regular basis so that you are not depriving yourself, and you find yourself craving something, ask yourself first “when was the last time I ate?” If the last time you ate was a while ago (let’s say 3 or 4 hours), then your craving may just be hunger-driven. Your brain will picture a food that gives you pleasure and you will want to eat it.
If, on the other hand, you have eaten recently and it was a good amount for you, then you can most likely rule out a nutritional or deprivation-driven craving. You then need to ask yourself “where is this craving coming from?” Your craving may definitely be emotional. You can be fairly certain that you are craving something other than food. The food is what your brain is making you think of and obsess over so that you don’t have to think about what’s really going on inside your head. The food becomes an emotional salve or a temporary means of distraction.
Sometimes there is more than one type of craving at work. The most powerful cravings are those that combine hunger, deprivation-driven and emotional cravings. So if you restrict amounts and types of food, go long periods without food and you are going through a stressful time, be aware that these types of cravings will be stronger.
Stephanie asks:How do you find treatment that is affordable??
Great resources for services and other information on eating disorders are the NEDA website http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ and the something fishy website http://www.something-fishy.org/.
You can locate services in the area where you live on both of these websites. NEDA sponsors web chats and can put you in contact with a NEDA Navigator.
There are also free support groups in many areas for people in recovery.
Elizabeth asks:Should I tell my nutritionist I used to chew/spit if I havent done it in years? Now i just restrict.
It is not essential to tell your nutritionist about a past eating disordered behavior, but I believe that it is important for you to be as honest with your treatment professionals as possible. If you had a past eating disordered behavior like chewing and spitting, it might be helpful to discuss the circumstances surrounding the behavior, the triggers, emotions etc. Remember that eating disordered behaviors are all symptoms/clues of underlying issues. The more your treatment professionals know, the better equipped they are to help you get to the root of the illness and help you get better.
Brooke asks: I am ready to recover from bulimia, I don’t want to tell others can I do this on my own?
Bulimia is an illness and as such, in order to recover, it is important to receive treatment from professionals that are experts in eating disorders and will treat you with the compassion and respect you deserve. You don’t have to tell other people unless you can seek their support as well. Most importantly, you need to be medically stable and gain the tools you will need to recover from your illness. Good luck, Brooke!