No, I’m not that bad at math!!!! To most people, 30 days can be a short amount of time, or a long amount of time depending on what we are measuring. Whatever is in that 30 days, whether good or bad, time will still tick the same to get there….. although it can feel very different from day to day!
This 30 days – for me – is the hardest! I’m on day 9 of my 30 days of following my meal plan 100%. And by 100% I mean no mistakes whatsoever!!! And by no mistakes I mean I can’t miss a meal or a snack…. Not even a side that my meal plan calls for! If my dinner calls for a sandwich and 2 sides — that is what I have to eat, no questions asked, or arguments allowed! Whether I’m hungry or not – all of that is still going into my belly!! Normal people don’t have a meal plan. Normal eaters don’t think about what they have to have or what they should eat or how much they should eat…. they just eat. The same isn’t true for people with eating disorders. (Hang on tight, this could get a bit bumpy.. and wordy).
I’ll speak only from my own experience – Anorexia is the name – we all know what it means; it means reducing your food intake. I won’t go into details right now, but I used to go days without eating. When that happens, your body begins to respond accordingly. When you restrict, your body goes into starvation mode, it does everything in an attempt to save your life. Our bodies are truly like an amazing computer from the cellular level! It will slow your metabolism so you can’t burn as many calories, it will stop your period from coming because you aren’t healthy enough to sustain life and then it will do what it has to do to keep your heart beating. So, how does one fix this problem and get healthy again? By following a meal plan given to you by the food police (aka dietitian)!
Now that you have some back information — let’s talk about meal plans!!!! They are everyone’s favorite things ever!!!! SIKE! (bringing that back from the 90s). For normal eaters, you don’t need this, but for somebody with an eating disorder, we do. Not only do we need it, as it’s our only road map to health, but we have to follow it and that is the hardest thing to do! Essentially, as we enter treatment we are given a paper by a dietitian that says “you need to eat _____ to regain health” and then we have to try very hard to get there…. kind of tough when you have issues with eating!!!! The only way to beat an eating disorder is by eating (duh, we know this), but it’s more than that.
So, why does anyone care about the fact that I/we have a meal plan??? Well…. I’m glad you asked (haha). For many reasons! One of the hardest things for a disordered eating person to do is follow a meal plan. First, we are perfectionists and when we mess up we get upset. Because we have difficulty finishing meals completely, we are typically messing up (it’s a vicious cycle). Most often it is much more food than you are used to taking in (but it is needed) and it’s uncomfortable to eat. So, although it’s important and needed, it’s an awful time for us! In addition to that, we are usually eating when we are not even hungry!!! And sometimes still full!!! Entering treatment we are told “you need ___carbs, ___proteins, ____ fruts, ____veggies” at this meal and you have to do this several times a day. It’s typically strict because we are trying to train our body to get back to health. We can’t just eat what we want because our metabolism is all messed up – it’s a slow gaining process. When you get this meal plan we have to try to follow it as closely as possible. One of the main reasons we have to follow it so closely is because often, we have lost all of our hunger signals. We can’t trust our bodies to tell us when we are hungry and when we are not. I’ve been in recovery for over a year now and I have not regained all of my hunger signals back. I still have a map that my dietitian gave me and I have to follow it whether I’m hungry or not because she said that a person my age needs this type of nourishment.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever been out with me and I’ve been frustrated or needed to get somewhere when it was “meal” time and I’ve become irritable or something. … here is why – we have to follow this map to health in order to learn how to eat again. We don’t know how to eat and something as simple as missing one meal can throw me off because my body remembers what I did to it, how much weight I lost and where it does not want me to be again. Essentially, when I skip one meal, my body goes directly back into starvation mode to try to “save itself” because it doesn’t trust that I will feed it regularly and it has to keep me alive. So, if I’ve been with you and needed food and had an attitude — so sorry because my body will quickly rebel against me!
I would like to interject right now and state that I am very mad at my dietitian, medical provider and therapist for making me follow my meal plan for 30 days!
This is my angry and unhappy face! They told me to state my feelings, so here they are!
Dear Treatment Team – I’m very mad at you and it hurts my feelings when you make me do things that I don’t like!
I feel better now!
Okay – coming back to these plans…. Not only do we hate them, but we’ve only known how to deal with negative feelings and emotions through food, and now we can’t! The food police took them away!!!! When we go into treatment and follow meal plans it gets harder and harder. There is a point when you are malnourished and you need to be on a weight gain plan (thank God that I’m done with that!!! If I have to drink another Ensure in my life I’ll scream!). There are other times when you have to maintain your weight. The problem being….. just because you are at a healthy weight, it does not mean that your eating disorder thoughts are gone – in fact, they sometimes feel worse. My purpose for saying this is that it takes time to come to terms with all of this, and meal plans are tough….. so, if meal plans are tough, you can assume that meals are tough too. Sometimes we are really good at hiding it – we can fake just about anything if needed – heck, we hid this disorder from loved ones for how long?!!! As a safety net, if you’re around somebody with an eating disorder, at a healthy weight or not, do them a favor and not comment on their food because they could be in that 30 day challenge boat just like me! Don’t assume they are recovered because they finally hit goal weight. Weight gain does not equal recovery! You recovery on many levels and that is just one part — the awful eating disorder thoughts are still there!
So, my 30 day challenge is this… I have to follow this meal plan with no mistakes for 30 days to try to fix my metabolism! As you saw above – I’m not thrilled! I’m not doing this cheerfully, but I know it has to be done. I’m on day 9 today and I’m still on track! Several girls from my treatment group are joining me in this challenge as support and are following their plans 100% for a week! This is huge!! So – Here’s to nothing!
Last thoughts — did you know that yo-yo dieting does the same thing to your body that I’ve done to mine? When you cut your food intake your body realizes it, wants the food and slows your metabolism! Did you ever get stuck trying to lose weight and you couldn’t but you were cutting your food intake???? You can’t do it, people!!!! Your body needs nourished!!!!