*Trigger warning: this article talks about having and dealing with an eating disorder, please be aware before deciding to read this*

As I’ve been going through my eating disorder recovery, I’ve had to face a lot of things that I didn’t realize were connected with the eating disorder and thoughts of imperfections, societal pressures, and other things that led me to have an eating disorder in the first place.

A couple of the things I’ve been trying to rewire in my brain are:

1. my feelings/attitudes towards exercise as joy from movement

2. trying to focus on building strength rather than loosing weight

3. treating exercise a way to relieve stress by moving my body rather than a way to burn calories or slim down.

Mackenzie Laverick

I’ve also had to rewire my thoughts about what types of food my body needs.

To understand that to function and to maintain bone health is to eat the carbs, to make sure I’m getting enough healthy fats, to get enough protein and nutrients, but also enjoy food. To make sure I’m not leaving out the treats or the sweets as they are often things that build a sense of community and taste really good. I realized I couldn’t live my life by treating everything as a nutrition label. There is so much more to life the numbers.

beer, coffee, tea, pizza
Meghan Flynn

As I’ve been trying to rethink these ideas regarding food, I have noticed that some foods in particular stand out to me as ones that make me feel more anxious when I’m eating them or are more likely to trigger that eating disorder voice that still resides in the back of my head. 

My Fear Foods

Most of them, to be fair, are things that society and media have told me I need to eat or avoid to be “healthy’. These included eating “too much” of anything, even what is considered “good“ or “ok”foods like nuts and nut butters, healthy fats like avocado, and other things like that. For a long time I had a fear around all carbs, especially processed ones like pastas and pizza. Different breads, even if it was something like a white or homemade bread versus multi grain, I always felt like I should be eating what was the “healthy” version like a whole wheat or multigrain type of loaf.

Mackenzie Laverick

Basically any pastries or desserts you can think of, especially cakes and dense desserts, really made me anxious when I ate them. Most sweets. This was made worse if it was more than one serving, even if it was something I considered more “healthy” like dark chocolate. Other things like granola or calorie dense foods like things containing a lot of nuts or butters were definitely up there in the fear foods list. Things like salad dressings and various sauces I avoided for the longest time or used as minimal of an amount as possible. Things like chips and crackers I would avoid at all costs. Anything with cheese....though I still do this since I’m lactose intolerant and I do feel kind of awful after eating anything with dairy. Any drinks like lattees, shakes, smoothies. Pretty much any liquid calories.

Mackenzie Laverick

I was also afraid of using too much oil or butter even if it was coconut milk in curry or alternative forms of oil. I was scared of fried food or fast food, basically any snack foods, packaged or processed goods, and any sort of candy. Other things I was scared of not necessarily related to food specifically but habits like eating late at night or eating “too often “or “too much in one sitting”. Foods or drinks that will make me feel full or bloated made me feel like I was out of control or that I was eating more than I should, my reasoning at the time being that if my body was reacting this way to the food I had done something wrong. Now I know that bloating is just the body’s natural reaction to digestion, and the amount of bloating you experience varies based on your genetics, your time of the month, the amount of liquids you’ve drunk, the types of foods, etc.I thought that hunger was how to know that I was doing things right. I didn’t realize that constant hunger was what was eating my muscles and bones and causing my body to slowly deteriorate. My eating disorder was made worse by the fact that I healthier I ate, or the more I exercised, the more society praised me. For what was considered as doing the right thing, taking the healthiest option, or watching my weight and trying to “be a better version of myself”. But throughout this time I was struggling so much with my relationship with food, exercise, and my body image. I never knew if I was doing the right thing. I never knew it was too much or too little. I felt like my life was made up of numbers. And equation that if I added or subtracted the parts correctly, the pieces of me, I would solve the problem of being worthy, good enough, or justify my place in this world as a woman. I forgot that food could be used purely as enjoyment.As a way to connect with our friends, family, and different cultures--and not just numbers or fuel for our bodies. At that point, I didn’t even know how to fuel or heal my body really. I didn’t know how much exercise I was doing related to how much and what food I should be eating. It wasn’t until talking with a nutritionist for months that I started to better understand what was right for me.

Mackenzie Laverick

Everybody is different. Every lifestyle is different.Everyone has a different metabolism.Every day is different. Your environment can really change what your body needs, and what’s available in your environment the types of food you have access to affects what you’re able to eat which thus affects your body. While I have made huge progress since when I was deep in my eating disorder in high school, I am still in the recovery process. There are certainly days or moments where I find myself slipping back into old patterns. Or worse, new ones. This is especially true when I’m feeling a loss of control in my life, as trying to control my body has become one of my default patterns. Yet I’m trying to fight this habit. I’m learning to listen to what my body wants and not listen to what my mind thinks I should have. To focus more on intuitive eating and not have a strict workout plan but rather go off of what I feel like doing that day, what I have time for, or what sounds more fun. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. Which is all I can hope for at this time.

If you need help facing an eating disorder check out these resources at NEDA. Please reach out to someone for help.