In eating disorder recovery, whether you are weight restored and have re-established regular meal patterns or not, you may have frequently still toyed with the idea of:
“Did i just eat too much”?
Perhaps far too often, thoughts about overdoing it at your last meal swamp your mind, which has become muddy with questions such as:
Did I serve myself too much pasta
Did my porridge bowl look too big
Why the hell did I order a starter, main and dessert
I ate way more pizza that i originally intended
Why did i spoon a second helping of curry
Why did I go for additional ice cream after dinner even though I didn’t feel hungry
That meal out was so oily, and must have contained a gazillion calories
I’ve already eaten too much today, so why bother with eating another snack
I think the amount of butter and sugar in that brownie I just ate will make my thighs and stomach huge
I know I definitely did - possibly hundreds of times a day, as I continued to obsess about getting the numbers ‘right’ and retaining control over the process of regaining a healthy amount of weight without feeling as though as was ‘indulging’ or ‘overeating. Unfortunately, this kept me well and truly stuck for a good number of years. Although I looked more weight restored, the restrictions I held around food and my body remained. To the outside, my behaviours and appearance seemed healthy, but only I knew that I hadn’t fully released the highly bound ropes that still prevented me from living completely free and compassionately.
Maybe you can relate to or have similar thoughts that have felt scary - as though there is some whisper of the eating disorder etched into the honeycomb of your bones, no matter how hard you try to wash it away from you.
Perhaps this voice makes your recovery efforts seem fruitless, as though you are just one step or moment away from hearing a voice that screams disgusting, unworthy, fat, weak and gluttonous. Maybe you sense an internal scream that wants you to compensate what you recently ate - luring you to RESTRICT RESTRICT RESTRICT !!!
But can you really overdo or eat ‘too much’ in recovery?
Regardless of your current weight, the answer is a big fat NO.
As I learned the long and hard way, the process of true recovery is about becoming liberated from rules, restrictions and, crucially, guilt and fear around any form and amount of food. Any negative thoughts and feelings that place you in a mind of worrying about eating too much does not come from the desire for wellbeing and self-compassion, but instead from a place of self-loathing and fear…
A fear of losing control again. A fear of losing the eating disorder identity. A fear of changing appearance. A fear of feeling unworthy and unloved. A fear of losing society’s acceptance. A fear of fading into the background and not having anything to cling on to anymore.
But whatever you recently ate, or felt the urge to consume ‘more than normal’ of (even if it does happen to be triple portions of dessert or a mega spoonful of peanut butter!), honouring these urges are completely valid and also form an EXTREMELY ESSENTIAL part of recovery!
Here’s several key reasons why:
We need to trust our hunger cues and our bodies again.
There is probably lots to catch up in terms of missed opportunities, experiences and memories regarding food.
Food is never just about fuel - it is about reconnecting with your culture, relaxing and feeling satisfied at a soul level
Our bodies need additional nourishment to repair any damage that we can’t see (e.g. bone health, reproductive system, hormones etc).
Living life to the full means being spontaneous, saying yes to opportunities, not overthinking the consequences of what we eat, and realising that nothing truly bad happens after ‘overeating’.
- Our minds need to feel at ease with any food situation, while we become more able to live spontaneously and enjoyably without being held down by food fears.
Crucial to point out here is that, even when our bodies are physically restored of nutrition, there is still a healing journey of learning to be at peace with our food choices and not ruminating about the consequences. For example, at a subconscious level, our bodies also need to feel sure and secure of its ability to direct and designate vital energy to other essential functions - whether that be reproduction, thinking creatively, bone building and hormone production. Without trust, while living in fear of eating too much, we live in an almost constant state of stress and anxiety.
Our bodies become conditioned to feel too unsure about where to dedicate its time, just in case there happens to be another famine around the corner. This in itself can incur long-term damage, as hormones such as cortisol become augmented and begin to affect our ability to relax, sleep as well as become resilient to anxiety (which ironically can also lead to a vicious cycle of feeling even more worried about food and body concerns).
Remember, our bodies need additional nourishment to repair the things we can’t see. After the long periods of starvation and destruction, the very least we can donate back to our amazing and beautiful body is its ability to trust its innate wisdom (which is much wiser than any structured meal plan or ‘safe’ way of eating).
In true recovery from an eating disorder, it is illogical to simply eat like everyone else (e.g. sometimes skipping meals or sticking to a measly 2000 calories a day). Their bodies are probably in trust mode, and even if they do eat significantly less one day, they are more than likely to make that energy up another day or at another time when you do not see them. Also, the fear of eating ‘too much’ in itself can lead to havoc on our wellbeing, though creating toxic thoughts and stress that contributes to poor physical and mental wellbeing.
For myself, in the process of recovery and learning to be at peace with eating much more than I would normally, or even what others where seemingly eating, it helped me to remember how our bodies are so so wise.
BODIES KNOW BEST!
So trust in the hunger signals or the urges to eat more than you planned - without guilt. Guilt only leads to distrusting bodies. No matter how much you recently ate, whether that be extra helpings or devouring a whole packet of biscuits, know that your body and mind deserve to be at peace with these actions. They will not harm you in the long run, so long as you can learn to trust in your body and release any guilt and fears that keep you from living the compassionate and joyful way you have always deserved.
There is nothing more nourishing for the mind, body and soul than saying YES to opportunities involving food, living your best life, and not letting ‘overeating’ define your right to remain in a loving relationship with yourself, food and the amazing world we live in.