Taken from my recovery survival kit
Taken from my recovery survival kit
helgasinclair asked: 1. i've been recovering and eating quite a bit for about 2 months now (not how many calories, probably about/under 2000) and weight restoration was unnecessary. i still get lightheaded/ dizzy/ and shaky sometimes. is this normal? 2. should i be exercising in recovery? i feel like a blob because i've just been eating and not really working out even though i dont really want to, but is it important? 3. i feel like i'm eating too much junk food/ not enough nutrients. should i be eating healthier?
The reason you feel light-headed and dizzy and shaky is because you’re definitely, definitely not eating enough. In reality, you need to be consuming 2500 as an absolute minimum on a ‘sedentary’ (i.e. restful) lifestyle (much more if you’re still growing). What you’re experiencing is normal in the sense that yes, that’s what people experience when they undereat, but it’s not normal in the sense that this is not okay and please, please do something to change it. It is impossible to recover whilst still eating inadequate amounts of food, like you are now - it’s not only damaging to your body, but to your mind as well.
As for exercise - definite, definite no, especially because your reason for doing exercise is ‘I feel like a blob’. This cannot be said enough: you need rest. Your body needs rest, and your mind needs rest. Therefore, no exercise - and especially no exercise if you’re wanting to do it because you ‘feel fat and lazy’ or because ‘it’s healthy and you should because you don’t want to be fat’, erc.
Lastly, please, please don’t get sucked into this trap. Focusing on nutrient levels in recovery never works out well - your eating disorder loves numbers and ‘clean’, ‘healthy’ foods - I swear to you that you should definitely not be ‘eating healthier’ and ‘cutting out ”’junk”’ food’. Have a look at the 'about the food' page on here if you can, but especially this question.
The thing is that what you’re experiencing is sadly very, very common eating-disordered anxiety. As we stop restricting our intake (be it by calorie-counting, purging, compensating), anxiety about ‘getting fat’ goes through the roof. People start to irrationally worry about ‘getting diabetes’, ‘becoming obese’, ‘becoming fat and unhealthy’, etc, and flip to healthy eating and/or exercise to try and ease the anxiety.
I swear to you from the absolute bottom of my heart that purposefully cutting out junk food and making yourself exercise in recovery will end up badly. You may not be able to see it in the short-term, but in reality all it will do is pull you back into the disordered mindset.
Please try and understand what I’m saying. I remember worrying about the exact same things all too vividly, and I remember being furious when people told me to ignore my ‘healthy’ motives and to carry on doing what feels most uncomfortable. Now, I could not be happier with my relationship with food and exercise. Challenging everything your eating disorder is pushing you to do when you start eating more - most usually ‘eat clean and exercise because it’s healthy’ - will always pay off.
I hope I made sense, and helped a little bit.
Argh, this post is everything. One of my very first posts was titled ‘Healthy foods and actual health' and, at the time of writing it, I felt very stupid. I was on Tumblr, for crying out loud, where if I ever posted things like, “you have an optimal weight you cannot choose or change,” I’d be bombarded with messages telling me that I was just a “jealous fat chick” (?) or something. Sigh.
But seriously, the post below is everything. It’s everything I’ve wanted to say, but couldn’t put into words (either because I literally couldn’t, or was just too scared to).
Please, hear me out though: I am not bashing vegans. (I actually really respect vegans.) I am not ‘bashing’ anybody. I’m just asking you to be honest with yourself, if you have a sudden, new-found love for all things ‘pure’ and ‘clean’ and ‘healthy’ in recovery.
When I mentioned that I had gone back to the basics given up on trying to replace things like butter, milk, sugar, cheese, etc. with their “healthier” alternatives, a lot of you admitted to doing the same thing and experiencing the same results – an overall increased feeling of wellness. We’re constantly being bombarded with ideas like: almond milk is healthier than cow’s milk, egg whites are healthier than whole eggs, butter is bad, red meat is the Devil, etc., so we replace or eliminate these foods in an effort to be healthier, but are we really healthier as a result?
I ask because for years I had somehow convinced myself that the way I was eating was right for me… I didn’t need meat. I didn’t need whole eggs. I didn’t need milk. I didn’t need butter. After all, I had my almond milk, egg whites, protein powders, and soy-based butters; I was feeling great and making healthy choices!
But lo-and-behold, I was wrong.
When I thought I was feeling great, it was only because I had forgotten how great really felt. That feeling of true health declined so gradually, that I didn’t even notice it. Looking back now, though, I would say that I felt fine; I didn’t feel bad, per say, but I wasn’t exactly thriving either. It wasn’t until I started reintroducing the basic, real foods that I grew up on back into my diet that I realized things hadn’t really been as good as I had led myself to believe.
It didn’t happen overnight, but I can’t deny the fact that eating real foods made a huge positive impact on my health. My energy increased. My mood improved. My skin, hair, and nails grew stronger. And I stopped obsessing so much over food and health. In short, I felt 100 times better eating the supposed “bad” foods than I had when I was eating all of those “healthy” alternatives. And let’s not even talk about how much my stomach appreciated the change…
So why am I mentioning this?
Well, based on my own personal experience, I really encourage you to take a step back and consider why you replace real foods (if you do) and how you feel as a result. People have allergies, intolerances, preferences… I get it, and there’s nothing wrong with substitutions/eliminations in those cases. But for those who can eat the real thing but don’t, why not? Why choose almond milk over regular milk? Why choose soy based products over dairy/meat ones? Why try and fool yourself that “cheese” made from nutritional yeast is anything like the real thing? Oftentimes we don’t even have answers to these questions… we just fall into the habit of doing them and don’t bother questioning it.
Is it because it’s what everyone else is doing? Because we’re told that it’s “supposed” to be better? Is it because we just don’t want to believe that eating and food really can be that simple? That we already figured it out thousands of years ago and no longer have to come up with crazy new theories, replacements, and what-have-yous? Do we have some kind of innate drive to complicate our lives more than we need to?
Seems that way, unfortunately.
Yup, so a friend of mine has been saying stupid things to me recently, which has made me angry as anything. The gist of most of them was ‘having orthorexia would be so handy because eating healthy is so good for you’ / ‘having anorexia would be so handy because having control over what you eat is so good for you’.
But in all seriousness, this is kind of a universal problem. The sucky thing is, most people won’t ever really understand how shitty it is to have to isolate yourself from others because food, day in, day out. How shitty it is to analyse and ‘justify’ every single thing you eat. How shitty it is to have to plan everything, and..ugh, I could go on for hours.
Healthy eating basically has a halo over it these days; I mean, the way I hear some people speak of it, we should all be eating raw soaked grains and raw vegetables in the morning sunrise after chanting prayers to the sun or something because ~holistic lifestyles~, or something. (Ugh, sorry if that sounded a bit rude or what, I’m just still pretty angry over a ‘conversation’ I had the other day on Yahoo! comments.)
Moving on, though:
First of all; do not fall for the trap of ‘it’s healthy, everybody else is doing it, so it’s fine for me to go all exercise-yay too’. Do not. Let everybody else do whatever and focus on you; both of you know deep down where this sudden love for ‘healthy’ and ‘exercise’ is coming from, and so, do not listen to a word of it.
Unfollow all ‘fitblrs’, just as a safety precaution. If you get random temptations to eat vegan dishes / ‘pure’, ‘unprocessed’ foods a lot, be careful with it. If you feel yourself itching to move, to exercise, to ‘tone’, stop and think. Do you want this? Or are you doing it to just ease disordered anxiety?
I’ll be honest here - I used to struggle a lot with this. It was easy to go along with my urges, because ‘healthy’ was everywhere; it only got worse as I neared BMI 20 and was told by all sorts of ignorant people to start ‘watching my shape’ (no, seriously). When you take a person suffering from a restrictive eating disorder and let them loose in a health-food store, it can become quite a scene; I’d spend hours, hours wandering around Whole Foods, buying bags and bags of wild rice, ‘dairy-free gluten-free raw vegan etc’ brownies / bars, sugar-free yogurt, frozen ready meals, oat bran, wheat bran, fat-free Greek yogurt (sadly, quite a lot of you will be all-too-familiar with this baby; you know what I mean), liquid egg whites, a lot of spinach.. The list goes on. It horrifies me when I think about the amount of money I spent on food, and the amount of time I spent on organising it, reading about the healthiest ways to retain vitamins, or whatever - when you add in the time I spent walking around obsessively, convinced that not walking at least an hour a day would make me fat and unhealthy and die of heart disease, the time I spent doing yoga/’toning’ exercises/squats… wow. I lost so much time to this, and I hate it.
I realised, though, that this wasn’t real, the way I was living. I realised that focusing on nutrition and fitness nearly every minute of my life was going to get me nowhere except, eventually, deeper relapse.
This helped me to start recognising eating-disordered anxiety, and ‘calling it out’, as it were. For example, during those ‘food-health-exercise’ obsessed 2 months, I was at a BMI 19-20 and told myself that I was ‘at the prime of health’ and that I was exercising ‘not to restrict or anything, but just to stay healthy’.. I wasn’t, of course. I wasn’t having periods, I was thinking about food too much, I restricted myself from foods, I had a limit to my calories, I was just weirdly interested in food and fitness, when that was clearly not who I really was. It all became a crutch, a buffer for all the ‘fat’ feelings - a very counterproductive one, may I add.
Not to sound too cliched, but I wasn’t really ‘me’, and as I realised this, I knew that I wanted to find out who ‘I’ really was. What I looked like (MY body, not my artifical-BMI 19-body), what I liked doing - I thought of it as an experiment, really. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll just see what happens.’ I rediscovered Gwyneth Olwyn’s website (before, I think I came across ‘the 3000 calories theory’ on a forum somewhere a year ago and of course thought it was bullshit), I made this website, I started doing things that had nothing to do with ‘fitness’.
It paid off. It was wonderful.
Whenever I felt myself getting anxious and very panicked about eating saturated fat/refined sugar etc., I told myself ‘No’, and I did what seemed hardest. This got easier with each day, and now, it’s almost no effort at all to intuitively eat.
It really all cleared itself from my head for good, though, as I got myself into things I was really interested in. School, for example; ugh, my lessons are amazing (idek if that’s weird, I like school okay), and I’m so nicely busy that I don’t really have time or energy for this anymore.
Find things you truly love, things you used to love, before your eating disorder - try to think about getting yourself back. It’s the most fascinating thing in the world.
Remember, if you’re turning to food restriction/ fitness to help with eating disordered anxiety, then really reconsider what you’re doing. There is nothing wrong with vegetables, or oatmeal, or yoga - abusing them, however, or doing them for the wrong reasons, is extremely counterproductive.
The walking thing I mentioned earlier brings me nicely to this, though:
If I’m wrong here, let me know, but this is my (sorry) assumption:
You’re on a recovery meal plan, and you’ve seen the ‘sedentary lifestyle’ guidelines, but you’re still struggling with the ‘lazy-fat’ thoughts, and so you feel like you have to get a certain amount of exercise ‘in’?
Please, be careful.
Exercise is something that’s only safe to take up when your mind is healthy. At the moment, it doesn’t sound like you’re quite there yet; remember that exercise is a very psychological thing (have you SEEN the number of sports psychology books there are?) and so it’s counterproductive to take up exercise, especially planned/’numbers’-type exercise, whilst your mind still isn’t fully healed yet.
In recovery, you need rest. I mean it, I do; have a look at this post, and know that everything your body needs right now is food, rest, and love. Exercise is for later, for when your mind and your body are both fully healthy, for when you’ll be doing it ‘just because’ and not because you ‘need to be healthy’, or something.
In general, though, sedentary means ‘desk job equivalent’, whatever that may mean; either way, your body knows what it is doing, and so don’t try and force it into movement / exercise when really, both your body and your mind need the opposite at the moment.
Related question I dug up from the bottom of the fyoured inbox (the ones above were from my personal):
Keep in mind that your tastes would have developed and changed once you grew up anyway, but in no way is there a truly healthy person who does not ‘like’ the taste of all dietary fat, or all added sugar. They come in many forms, and there is one that (even if it’s secretly) you do still love, I promise. Cookie dough - not even the ice cream, but just raw cookie batter; classic childhood favourite. Butter on toast. Nuts. Cheesecake, cheese. An old favourite soda. A Frappucino from Starbucks, with whipped cream. I could go on for much longer, but you get the idea - as long as you are able to eat these foods without anxiety, and appreciate them for their taste, then you’re on the right track - but try to not let your ‘ED’ preferences lead you too far. (I mean, if I stuck with my ED-likes, I’d still be eating grilled shrimp, soaked buckwheat and broccoli day in, day out.) Be ready to try everything, and to see it as just an enjoyable experience, and not a ‘oh-I’m-eating-this-unhealthy-food-but-I-don’t-even-like-it-so-it’s-fine’ kind of way.
I really should wrap up, I guess, but the original point of this post was the following:
Orthorexia is a real problem, really. And to my friend whose comments made me angry in the first place - incidentally, the friend that also laughed at this picture and said that it would make people die of heart disease because everyone would be walking around eating crisps 24/7 (!??) - if you see this, Mash, let me know. I won’t forget the things you’ve said, they upset me more than you can imagine, but what upset me most is that you wouldn’t even accept your ignorance of eating disorders.
If you’ve ever been on weight-loss websites (and forgive me if this is a massive, ignorant assumption, but a lot people I know who suffer from eating disorders can spend a lot of time on weight-loss websites), you’re very likely to have seen the tip “if you’re craving junk, have fruit instead”, or something like “once you eat healthy for a month, you start craving healthy food not junk food”.
By the way, those kinds of tips used to trigger me so much, but that’s for another time.
My point is really that there’s a massive difference between starting to enjoy some vegetables if you’ve never really liked them before (what that advice is technically intended to do), and starting to retrain your taste buds to only like ‘safe’ foods when you’re suffering from an eating disorder (I don’t know about you, but that’s certainly what I used to do).
You need to avoid the latter, because that will only make recovery harder.
Which brings me nicely to:
There’s a difference between just liking fruit, and making fruit the only ‘sweet’ thing you eat. (This question/statement is also relevant.) My sister, for example, is the perfect example of a ‘normal’ person liking fruit - she’s 10, so has no idea about calories (except for their conceptual existence), and she can equally happily eat some milk chocolate or some mango whenever she wants something sweet - she just doesn’t care which is ‘healthier’, she just eats what she truly wants, depending on what’s available. That’s it.
At the end of the day, your ‘cravings’ and preferences for ‘healthy foods’ alone in recovery are likely to be very messed up. The number of very very ill girls I’ve seen who’ve said that if they could, they’d ‘live on fish and vegetables alone because they’re so delicious’, breaks my heart.
There’s nothing wrong with randomly wanting a piece of fruit, but you’ve suddenly grown to ‘hate’ all ‘bad’ foods and ‘love’ all wholegrains during your disorder, then really try to think about it. Do you love the food, or just how it makes you feel (‘healthy’, ‘good’)?
You’ve got to learn to eat anything without anxiety in recovery, which, yes, includes ‘junk food’. I’m not encouraging a diet made purely out of deep-fried burgers (if such a thing existed, hehe) - I’m just saying that you need to break all your ‘new’ rules in order to recover for real. I mean, I used to really believe that I didn’t like ice cream anymore - then I made myself have some, and realised, ‘what the hell was I thinking?’
Challenge yourself all the time, bit by bit, and watch yourself change for the better.