So with this new questions thing on instagram, I’ve gotten some great questions and I decided to write this blog because there’s a LOT I want to say in response to a lot of them (but I can’t really do that with just a screen on my insta story.)
So, bear with me, thanks to all of you who submitted great questions, and feel free to scroll through the answers if they don’t apply to you!
How do you deal with extreme hunger? Should I restrict/not always listen to my extreme hunger?
My answer, in a very Simon Cowel way, is it’s a no from me. Extreme hunger is a result of starvation and restriction and ignoring it will MAKE IT WORSE. I get people asking me 24/7 if they should eat when they are experiencing extreme hunger, and I’m always kind of shocked because I’m like “do these people think I’m gonna EVER tell them to not eat?” (the answer to that is no).
Extreme hunger (and binging after restricting for a period of time) is your body’s way of trying to keep you alive. The only way to make your extreme hunger go away is to listen to it and satisfy your hunger. The more you listen to it, the easier it will be, and the less you will experience it. This is basically a huge part of the refeeding stage. It can be super hard and uncomfortable, but it eventually passes.
There was a study done on rats to better understand the refeeding process post restriction, and guess what! The rats who were on a diet gained more weight over time because their bodies had experienced the diet as (you guessed it) starvation, so it naturally held on to more weight.
ALSO: the tough thing about it is that your ED will try to tell you that you can’t listen to it. ED starts to come in and say that if you listen to your extreme hunger you will gain weight, be fat, etc. (all of those are not bad things, btw). If you give in to your eating disorder and *ignore your hunger cues you will not help your body recovery and meet its setpoint.*
What happens when I overshoot my set point in recovery? How do I find my set point?
I posted a whole thing on set points here if you’re not familiar with what those are. In regards to overshooting your set point, that is pretty common. For a lot of people, EDs begin in the teenage years, and as much as diet culture tries to tell us that we should stop growing in our teen years and then just miraculously stay the same size (super not true!)
My eating disorder and subsequent recovery has kind of gotten in the way of seeing how a healthy body progresses through the teen years and into the 20s, but I’ll use my best friend as an example.
She’s like 5’9 and GORG and her body just isn’t the same as it was when we were 16 or 17. She’s grown in different ways and her body has changed and that’s normal. Her body is now in the age of preparing to have children at some point, so naturally it’s going to be different than it was when she was straight outta puberty.
SO in terms of set points, it takes people a long time after recovery to let their bodies even out, and if you continue to engage in any dieting/restricting/binging/ED behaviors, your body will not get to it’s set point.
I once read an article that talked about how your pre-ed weight (depending on what age you were) should be the absolute MINIMUM you should ever weight again, like…ever. I know now that if I ever weighed what I did before my ED, it STILL would probably be too small for me because my body is a lot different now than it was at 16.
The best thing to do to let your body even out and decide where it needs to be for optimal health is to eat intuitively, meaning listen to your hunger cues, listen to your fullness cues, listen to cravings. Your body is in charge, not you.
Do you have any tips on intuitive eating?
I wish I had a thousand tips on intuitive eating, but I feel like that would make it inherently unintuitive. The biggest key to eating intuitively is checking in with your body to see where it’s at. I was AMAZED at how many hunger cues I was missing when I started taking the time to check in.
I remember walking into my dietitian’s office and saying to her, “no, you don’t understand, I just don’t get hungry in the morning.” This is now my favorite thing to hear other people say because I know how false it is.
Our bodies are not meant to run on one meal all day. They’re meant to be fed and they will tell you when you need to eat, you just need to listen.
My dietitian then talked to me about how I was basically only listening to my body when I was basically at 7, 8, or 9 on the hunger scale..meaning when I was SUPER hungry. What I thought was “not hungry,” was actually “somewhat hungry” or “slightly hungry,” which is maybe more like a 2, 3, 4, or 5 on the hunger scale.
When we check in with our bodies and really try to tune into our tummies, we’ll feel the hunger that we might have missed. You’ll also learn that when you eat intuitively and allow yourself to eat without guilt, you won’t only crave sweets and *treats* (we’re not dogs, y’all. Food is necessary, not a treat.)
I talked a little bit about my own experience with that in my blog post about my trip to Paris! When we allow our bodies to eat cookies or ice cream because that’s what we want, we won’t crave it 24/7 because we’re not restricting from it. Once your body learns that if you want cookies, you can have them, it will start to crave other foods because your body genuinely wants to be nourished in a balanced way.
Should I exercise in recovery?
This is a tough one, mainly because the answer is different for everyone. Personally, I believe that in the early stages of recovery, people should avoid exercise for a few reasons.
- because their body might not be physically healthy enough for it
- because exercise is often rooted in diet culture and controlling your body
- because people fear what will happen if they don’t.
As far as I’m concerned, the only reason people should be exercising is because they want to and because they enjoy it. And I don’t mean “I enjoy going to the gym because that means I can have dessert.”
I mean, wow, this feels good and I am smiling while I do it. Okay, well, maybe not smiling the entire time, but you get what I mean.
I do think that there are great things about exercising, and I do think it is important to incorporate healthy exercise into your life post-ED, but I think people need to be careful. I did a little diagram (that I will insert below) on when people should move their bodies.
How do you deal with body image/recovery after weight restoration?
To be completely honest with y’all, my recovery got a lot harder once I was weight restored. I think that’s because I still had the thoughts and behaviors, but I didn’t have *the body* to show for it, if you know what I mean.
Eating disorders do this really obnoxious thing where they trick you into thinking that you’re not sick if you don’t look like the pictures from your high school health class textbook (which is a very inaccurate representation, btw).
Because of this–and because of the misconception that people who have eating disorders are always in small bodies–recovery post weight-restoration, or recovery when you’re in a bigger body, is SUPER tough.
I feel that this is because the disorder is still there, but the physical proof might not be. To some people who don’t understand EDs, they think that if you’re weight restored or if you’re in a bigger body then you’re not struggling. There is still a lot of work to do post restoration, like to tackle that actual reason you developed your ED in general (low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, trauma, etc.)!
How do I deal with the fact that society tells me which types of bodies are attractive but diet culture asks me to ignore that information?
I think the hardest part of recovery and trying to live a non diet life in a diet culture ruled world is this. There are thousands and millions of message that bigger bodies are bad, wrong, ugly, unhealthy, and this that and the other thing.
We’ve been raised on this message for as long as we can remember, which makes it even harder to ignore it.
I also think this message is easier to understand or appreciate when you’re NOT receiving the discrimination of being in a bigger body. Meaning: if you’re in a smaller body, it might be easier to advocate for the acceptance of those in bigger bodies because you might not feel as pressured by diet culture to change your weight/shape.
Accepting the dissonance of recovery is tough: we’re expected to feed ourselves, fuel our bodies, appreciate our curves…unless we have too many. When I think of this paradox, I think about having the awareness that it exists.
I know logically that smaller bodies are not better than bigger bodies, but it’s hard to remember that when diet culture is constantly sending us messages that are disguised as words from loved ones, billboard in time square, and commercials on TV.
When I notice a thought that is very rooted in diet culture (whether about myself or about someone else) I try to recognize it as what it is: false. I take a minute to actually think to myself: “Whoa, hey, hold up. That thought isn’t helpful to me or to anyone else. I need to reframe that.”
Sometimes this is easier than others, but I think the processing is important. What does having a diet culture thought do? To me it seems that it only makes ME feel more tied to diet culture and it’s not spreading the message that I am trying to spread.
Ignoring the information from diet culture is hard, and I think everyone in this community will tell you that we’re not immune to it. They key is NOT *never having a diet culture thought* or never thinking about being attractive to others. We are humans raised in this world, and we will undoubtedly be shaped by the information we receive.
The key, instead, is recognizing these thoughts and working to reframe them for our own benefit and for the benefit of others.
The answers to these questions are based on my own recovery, my training as a counselor, and my personal opinions and beliefs on recovery and diet culture.
Feel free to send more questions on instagram, here on wordpress, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.