If you don’t already know this about me, I am a podcast junkie. I can’t get enough of them. I listen to podcasts while I’m driving, showering, folding laundry, cooking… basically any alone time I have these days, I’ve got one on. I feel like I have learned more in the past 6 months of listening to podcasts than I have in the 10 years I have been actively on this health journey. There is such a wealth of knowledge out there and with the frequent updates in the world of nutrition and wellness, podcasts are the perfect way to keep us all in the know on the latest studies and research. My favorite podcasts are: Naturally Nourished (Ali Miller RD), Bulletproof Radio (Dave Asprey), The Doctor’s Farmacy (Mark Hyman M.D.), Broken Brain (Dhru Purohit), Primal Blueprint (Mark Sisson), The Keto Diet (Leanne Vogel), Food Matters (James Colquhoun), Rise (Rachel Hollis) and Do The Thing (Melissa Urban).
Are you wondering how podcasts relate to the title of this post? Over the past month I have been immersing myself in podcast content related to self care, body image, and a real food/low carb lifestyle approach to healing. These 3 topics have led me to many realizations about my own mental health as well as many “aha” moments about how to continue progressing in my eating disorder recovery.
For the longest time I would go back and forth with my beliefs about my approach to recovery. I wondered if my gradual restriction of certain foods and food groups was further perpetuating my disordered eating habits. Every thing I read online about eating disorder recovery says to allow yourself to eat everything and not restrict any food groups at all until you develop a healthier relationship with food. I see this point, and I’m sure for a lot of people that makes a ton of sense, but it has never made sense for me.
After listening to some podcasts about body image and self care from The Keto Diet with Leanne Vogel, I realized a few things. 1. I am definitely doing what is best for ME. 2. That does not mean this approach to recovery is best for everyone. 3. Regardless of whether or not I was recovering from an eating disorder, I would be following a real food/low carb/keto lifestyle anyways, so that is what I will continue to do. 4. There is a huge learning curve with adopting a keto lifestyle, and it’s even more complicated when you add in issues with emotional/disordered eating. Just because it’s complicated though, does not mean it’s not the right approach.
Sugar and carb addiction is a very real thing, and I have struggled with it for my entire life. When you think about trying to heal from a LIFETIME of addiction to something, it can be pretty overwhelming. Food is complicated because we have to eat it every day. We can’t just stop eating food like drug addicts stop using cocaine or alcoholics stop drinking alcohol. Food is everywhere, especially the sugar and carb filled addictive foods that I have such a hard time resisting. This makes recovering from a sugar addiction VERY difficult… but not impossible. It just takes a lot of self exploration, experimentation, and soul searching to figure out what works best for my personality.
Thanks to Gretchin Rubin’s Four Tendencies book, I am slowly figuring out what kind of person I am. I am learning that I have quite a bit of rebel in me, which was surprising at first. I am also an Obliger though, meaning I need some outer accountability in certain areas of life, so I have to figure out how to cater to both of these tendencies. In addition to my personality tendencies, I know for a fact that I am an “Abstainer” and NOT a “Moderator.” This means that I do much better with completely abstaining from things that don’t suit me, and I have a really hard time with moderation. The biggest lesson I have learned from Gretchin Rubin about all of this is that IT IS OK! It’s ok to not try to eat everything in moderation, because that is not what works well with my personality. I shouldn’t try to force myself to live a lifestyle that doesn’t come naturally to me. Avoiding sugar and carbs as much as possible is what is working best for me at this point in my life. I can’t eat sugar in moderation right now, I just can’t. Maybe I will in the future, but at the moment, eating a clean, wholesome, real food diet that is very low in sugar and carbs is what is working for me. It feels right for my body, it definitely feels right for my mind, and all disordered eating aside, it’s an extremely healthy and nutrient dense lifestyle that I believe all Americans should be shifting towards. Through this real food journey, I am slowly finding my food freedom, silencing my sugar dragon, and figuring out which foods my body responds best to.
There is nothing wrong with the fact that I will not eat a cookie that someone offers me. The way I see it, I am purposely restricting the foods that do not serve me well as a form of SELF LOVE and SELF CARE. If I ate a cookie right now, my blood sugar would spike, my anxiety would go crazy, and I would stress about the possibility of a binge later on. I would also not stop at 1 cookie. I’ve never been the type of person that can have just 1. Yes, I am working on this, but for now, it’s still not happening. After the cookies I would have at least 2 days of aches and pains in my legs and my fingers, I would have a headache tonight, I would have mood swings and I would feel imbalanced and lethargic. Knowing all of these things, why then would it be “better” for me to eat the cookie? Through my experience with many rounds of Whole30 and constantly working on my food freedom, I have become very sure of 2 things when it comes to cookies:
1. I don’t truly WANT to eat the cookie… so I wont.
2. The cookie doesn’t do ANYTHING good for me, so I choose not to eat it.
It’s taken a long time to learn the difference between truly wanting something and just having a sugar craving. I still have to work through my thoughts on a daily basis and I am constantly feeling my way through each decision I make with food. Slowly but surely though, I am figuring out which foods are “worth it” for me and which foods aren’t. Cookies are never worth it.
There are certain food groups that I know for a fact are harmful to my body and/or my mind. These foods are sugar, gluten, corn, and dairy. They cause depression, severe anxiety, aches and pains, and digestive distress for me. I know that if I eat any of these foods, I will not feel good for the rest of the day and my mental state will suffer. For this reason, these foods are not worth me trying to eat in moderation. I’m not ruling out the possibility that in the future I can reintroduce these foods after I am further through my recovery and my gut is in a stable place, but right now restricting these food groups is a choice I am making because it is helping me heal.
My approach to recovery is very similar to the overeaters/alcoholics anonymous 12 steps. They believe that you should refrain from eating foods that cause your compulsive behaviors. I am a firm believer that for SOME people, this is definitely the best route to take. I am also a firm believer that for SOME people, this is the worst route to take. Everyone is different. The key to a successful recovery is finding what works best for you and sticking with it. For me, restricting certain food groups is what works best. Maybe that will change in the future, but for now, it’s working.
I want everyone to understand the difference here between restricting food groups and a restrictive personality. Some people may read this and think “she just has a restrictive mindset” or “she’s being too restrictive”. In my opinion, it’s actually the complete opposite. I don’t approach my meals thinking I need to restrict my quantities or be careful of what I am consuming. Rather, I know that I am eating such nutrient dense high quality food that allow myself to eat as much as I want of these foods. Sometimes I eat the entire sheet pan of vegetables, sometimes I eat the whole avocado for a snack, sometimes I eat a ribeye the size of my face, and sometimes I eat the entire bar of 100% cacao chocolate. So yes I am restricting food groups, but I certainly don’t have a restrictive mindset when it comes to my portions. I like to think that I have an “abundance mindset”. I eat all real low carb foods in abundance because those are the foods that make me feel good. By making this shift in my thoughts, I have been able to develop a healthier relationship with food.
Now, back to the cookies for a minute. Knowing that cookies are not worth it does not mean that I never eat the cookies. I want to be clear here so you understand that although I know all these things about myself, I am still a work in progress. I am not perfect and cookies are still very hard for me to be around without eating them. I have a much healthier relationship with food these days, but I still make choices that I have to learn and grow from constantly. In fact, just last night I ate cookies. We had a delicious BBQ at our house and someone brought cookies. I ate way too much last night, I am sure of it. I also ate cookies. But you know what? I am totally ok with it. I paid for it today after a night of not sleeping and having many of the side effects listed above, but in the moment last night, I was not focused on my food. I was focused on spending time with friends and enjoying the social time. I may have a solid eating routine at work and at home, but in social situations, I know I still need to do the work. I’m ok with this because it’s always good practice. I’m not going to avoid parties, not hang out with friends, and become a hermit just because in my normal life I choose to restrict a few food groups. Instead, I will look at social situations as opportunities to learn and grow. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted last night, and although the better thing to do would have been to decide “is this really worth it?” in the moment, I know that sometimes that just isn’t going to happen. It’s always about the progress, not perfection. I did not beat myself up today about my food choices last night. Instead, I got some healthy movement in to improve my mood and my side effects, ate a healthy breakfast, and continued on with my day just as normal.
Recovery is all about the mindset. You can eat all the cookies you want and say you are not restricting because you are trying to learn to change your relationship with food… but if you still have a restrictive mindset and do things like eat less at your next meal because you ate cookies, or workout obsessively to burn off the calories, or count your calories each day to make sure you are under your ideal number for the day, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. I may choose to restrict a lot of food groups, but I have found more food freedom eating what works best for my body than I ever did trying to force myself to eat all the things because that’s what google said was best.
I completely eliminated my restrictive mindset by restricting food groups that were preventing me from healing my gut and my mind. This may not make sense to some, and many people may not agree with my approach, but this is what works for me.
I share all this because there are not many resources for binge eating recovery out there that encourage this style of eating. I am challenging the norm. I want you to know that this has worked for me, and if you think you have a similar personality type, this may work for you too. I would never tell you that this is THE ONLY WAY to recover. There are so many ways to approach recovery that can work for so many different people. What I’m saying is that I know for a fact that the reason I developed this disorder is due in large part to the sugar and processed foods I grew up eating my entire life, and now I want them out of my life.
How can I expect to recover eating the very foods that caused by binge eating disorder in the first place?
Is that not the definition of insanity? Think about it.
For more on this, follow @toriakselrad and my hashtag #realfoodforrecovery on Instagram.