There is a process for reconnecting with what we really want to eat to be satisfied, trusting that even if the food wasn’t perfect for the situation, you get that feedback quickly and can move on to the next meal.
Use this article as a handout and feel free to print this page out so you can spend some time with this exercise and refer to it again and again.
Let’s start with step 1:
Consider all the foods you eat now and write them down. Which ones do you truly like? Do not include on this list foods you think you “should eat” but don’t really like. Include foods that you eat now but with guilt or do not eat because you are fearful to eat them.
Circle the foods the foods you restrict.
Check the foods you binge or binge/purge on
Put a star by foods you actually eat
Decide which food you would like to make peace with first. This process can go at whatever pace you need (no judgment please). I recommend starting with one food a week and you can change the pace if you want later.
Please think compassionately and thoughtfully about this next step. We often just can’t jump into eating what we want; it can be scary so we want be set up for it to go as well as possible.
Let’s say that you really want to have ice cream or frozen yogurt. Both may be challenging yet you still want to try. What would happen if you choose the one that was the least scary first then move on to the next, using the feedback about how it affected your body? Most people I work with have fears about certain foods causing weight gain so once you try one food that contains more sugar and/or fat than you typically eat, you will have evidence that the next one will likely have a similar result.
I also suggest thinking about what would prevent you from binging or purging on this food that you have struggled with. Do you need to eat the ice cream with support at home? Or go out for ice cream on your own or with a friend? Buy a pint before you move on to having a quart available whenever you feel like it. How about making sure you are fully present as you eat, meaning no phone, tv, reading, etc.
If you have a tendency to want to compensate for eating certain foods by restricting the next meal or day, how can you keep yourself accountable to receiving the feedback your body can give you? Do you need to make a commitment to yourself by leaving reminders that there is nothing to fear or asking a friend to be available for a while to talk over the next day if restricting or binging thoughts come up?
Take what you learn from this process and tweak it for the next food. Did you need to plan more to not restrict? Did you need to make sure you did not get too hungry before you tried the new food? Notice what you liked or did not like about the food. Was the food as amazing as you had it made out to be in your mind? Remember that you are not required to like everything; we are just looking for your preference for food outside of the mental worry of portions, calories, fat, sugar, etc. How often do you want to have it and consider that as you grocery shop.
This is a journey of discovery, so remember you will have some ups and downs. The more compassionate and non-judgemental you can be with whatever outcome, the easier moving forward with confidence will be.
If anyone has any other suggestions for others that have worked for them, please comment below. This is certainly not the only way to make peace with food.
Much love and know that you are worth the risks!