“I’ll make up for it tomorrow.”
“Restricting food will fix this mistake.”
“I just won’t eat for the rest of the day.”
I’ve said and heard both of these statements AFTER a big holiday meal, or after simply “indulging” at a favorite restaurant. These types of statements are said by individuals who have an eating disorder and also by those who are deemed “healthy” by society’s standards. Which is the tricky part: it’s so normalized to feel like we have to “make up” for the food we actually enjoyed. This notion combined with an eating disorder sets us up for a hell of a lot of guilt and self-shaming.
So when tomorrow comes after a night of eating that slice of pumpkin pie that you were craving, or actually ordering the burger instead of the salad, refer back to these reminders:
Restricting food can lead to binging
No, having dessert after a meal or having an extra handful of fries after you’ve finished your own portion is NOT a binge. However, what I’m referring to is the cycle that can be very easy to develop when we restrict. When we restrict calories, especially over an extended period of time, our body and mind are both affected. We literally go into starvation mode, hormones regulating hunger are severely impacted, and we feel a loss of control over the amount that we end up eating.
Yes, I’ve binged before. Yes, it was extremely anxiety provoking. My initial thought after the first binge? “Okay, I won’t eat snacks for the rest of the week to make up for this.” Then what happened? Well, I was naturally very hungry from the decrease in nourishment, and ended up binging again the next week. This is just an example of a personal experience, but it had to happen three more times before I finally realized that restricting was not the answer to “solving” my anxiety. It is not your fault if you binge; it is a physiological response to the effects of restriction. What is in your control, however, is whether or not you decide to restrict in the first place.
No food is “good” or “bad”
When we label food as good versus bad, then we begin to attribute these same characteristics to who we are as a person. Yes, there are specific foods that come with extra health benefits. However, this doesn’t make them any “more good” of a food than a slice of cake, which is deemed “bad” by society. Let’s take a banana, for instance. They’re very healthy! Great source of potassium and fiber, and a great source of sugar and carbs to replenish your energy levels in the morning. However, if your day only consisted of this “good” food, then your body is missing out on other essential nutrients that are coming from other foods. When we label food good versus bad, then we very quickly attach a sense of worth to who we are as a person.
You don’t have to “indulge” everyday!
I’ve gotten some backlash before from parents, friends, and friends in recovery when they question why I order the salad for lunch. Well, it’s because I want it and it’s what my body is craving. Here’s where balance plays into all of this. Take Thanksgiving weekend, for example, and for the fact that it was just a few days ago. Yes, I ate more than I normally eat for four days in a row. Yes, there was pizza AFTER the turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing were eaten. And yes, I enjoyed it all. As Sunday night rolled around and I was back in Chicago, I ordered in a sushi roll that was obviously much lighter than the food I was eating for the days beforehand.
Did I order the sushi as a way to restrict? I can answer it honestly from years gaining self-awareness, that I did not in fact do with eating disordered intentions. Rather, my body was craving something fresh and something that wasn’t bread or turkey. Every single day will not feel like an indulgence. It’s all about balance: some days you’ll want the salad or sandwich, and other days you might opt for some extra cookies after dinner. Over the course of the week, it all balances out to a healthy lifestyle.
Is it really sustainable?
Because I’m clearly into sharing personal experiences today, let’s start this point with another. When I used to “make up” my calories, I noticed it became really difficult to keep up with. Near the end of my weight restoration, I was still doing this behavior. Simultaneously, I was also gaining my energy back, which meant I was becoming much more social again. There were many more nights out with friends, which meant more beers and drinks, and more meals that were most definitely not on my list of “safe foods.” At the end of the day, I found myself cutting calories here and there JUST in order to go out at night (and eat or drink whatever was included in that plan). Sure enough, this not only got stressful to think about numbers (calories) all the time, and be doing math in my head versus having conversations, but it also became a pattern that I couldn’t keep up with. My meal plan no longer felt like it existed, which of course added to the stress. Simply put, and maybe it’s too opinionated: but, I’m not sure if a social life can exist at the same time that restriction does. Or at least not a fulfilling one.
At the end of the day, eat the slice of cake and keep the enjoyable memories from it too. Nothing you should eat in one day should dictate what you DON’T eat the next day.