In all honesty, I love eating my greens and complex carbs, eating a protein source at each meal, and adding in some healthy fats throughout my day. In society this is usually deemed as “clean eating.” These are the foods that my body thrives on and feels the most energized from. And it’s perfectly OK that I enjoy eating “healthy” foods. However, it’s also equally OK when I decide to order something that doesn’t fall under the “healthy food” category (by the way, I am placing quotations here to symbolize what is perceived as being healthy in terms of nutritionally dense foods).
I’ve seen quite a bit of confusion around the topic of “healthy foods only” recovery. In other words, weight restoration that is achieved only by adopting clean eating habits and adhering to a specific diet that only includes “healthy” foods. And then I ask the question: is this truly recovery if we’re placing strict rules on what foods are allowed versus the foods that are prohibited? This is where the discussion of food preferences arises. I’d like to emphasize the difference between personal and sincere preferences, versus eating disorder motivated choices.
I don’t have to like cake
I didn’t like dessert at all when I was in treatment. Or, at least this is what my eating disorder wanted my dietician to believe. My eating disorder wanted to avoid challenging myself, so instead it became easier to “genuinely” claim that I hated sweets. In reality? I love them. Whether you’re working with a dietician or not, consider the sincerity behind the food preference claims you’re making. While it’s completely normal to dislike certain foods (does anyone actually really like meatloaf?), it’s also important to recognize and admit when these preferences are based on your eating disorder’s rules. If you’re unsure, I’d encourage you to try a food you are reporting that you dislike. After genuine effort if you still don’t like it, then at least you gain awareness throughout your recovery and made progress by challenging yourself. For the record, I still don’t like cake even 8 years after treatment.
Are your “healthy” eating habits limiting you?
You might ask the question throughout your recovery: “why would I choose chips or fries over a sweet potato or baked potato?” Yes, it’s true that a sweet potato IS more nutritionally dense than chips. And yes, it is OK to choose nutritionally dense foods. However, the issue arises when it is fear or anxiety that is keeping you from choosing less nutritionally dense options. Let’s say you’re really craving pancakes when you’re out for brunch; and let’s also say that you religiously stick to whole wheat carbs. You notice on the menu that there are only buttermilk pancakes, and yet you’re still really craving them. Here’s where the problem is: when you opt out for choosing the pancakes solely because of they are not the starch that your eating disorder approves of.
Balance, balance, balance
Balance always needs to be emphasized. Recovery is made up of both nutritionally dense foods, and foods that are not as nutritionally dense. Throughout my recovery, I ate whole foods that were filled with benefits for my body’s metabolic functioning, hair, skin, the list goes on. Simultaneously, can’t we also say that less nutritionally dense foods are also filled with benefits? Primarily mental health benefits that can help move you forward in recovery. It’s not one or the other; it’s not only healthy foods all the time or only “treats.” Recovery is about having both in moderation. It’s OK to enjoy “healthy” foods and load up on greens! It’s also OK to enjoy a dessert when you are craving it and to listen to your body’s wants and needs.