Life is not always roses and butterflies. Every day we experience moments that can affect our mood. Sometimes our feelings or emotions can even make us lose our appetite. It can make eating hard.
When you are recovering from restrictive eating, this situation could trigger negative thoughts about food. Thoughts can then lead to unhelpful behaviors such as restricting.
Choosing recovery has taught me that Anorexia Nervosa is a manipulative disease. It slowly infiltrates into your life in times of stress or anxiety. And it slowly convinces you that restriction is the best choice.
My eating disorder offered a false sense of control when my emotions felt too overwhelming. In recovery, I learned to embrace effective ways to deal with these emotions. I also learned how to eat when you don’t feel like it and so I am sharing these tips below.
1. Mechanical Eating
This technique helped me a lot on hard days. It means eating regularly during the day, whether you feel hungry or not. This is the time to follow a meal plan. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and different snack moments. By following a meal plan, you are showing up for your body. You are also stopping unhelpful behaviors and keeping your energy levels stable.
2. Eating to think clearly
We can’t think or take a decision with a starved brain. Food, water, and oxygen are the most significant elements that help our minds function well. A 2010 study found that starvation plays a vital role in brain deficits, cognitive efficiency, and changes in mood and behaviors. Another study also found that malnutrition could increase levels of anxiety and worry which may affect the process of decision-making. So consider food as a way to save the day.
3. Celebrate your meal
It could be hard to deal with mealtimes when you lose your appetite. But creating a soothing atmosphere while eating can improve what you feel. Cooking, candles, and music are ways that can help. Sharing meals with those you love can also alleviate what you are going through.
4. Give the situation more than one interpretation
This is not about eating, but it can be helpful to use during mealtimes. When a situation causes you to feel stressed or anxious, you can choose to think differently. According to Emma McAdam, LMFT, “How we think affects our brain chemistry”. So if we keep telling ourselves that we can’t deal with a situation (i.e. eating), we send a message to our brain that it is a threat.
In order to create new helpful pathways, we have to shift our perspective. For example, write your fear on a piece of paper and write more than one explanation for it. Balance every negative thought with at least two positive ones and try to repeat the positive ones.
5. The Power of the Now
Our brains are addicted to brainstorming the unknown. This is a protective mechanism that helps us to brace ourselves for the worst.
However, depending on this mechanism is an unhelpful strategy. The only way to get rid of it is by focusing our attention on the present moment.
This happens when we teach our minds to deal with what we are facing now, even if it is a stressful situation. In fact, what makes a situation unbearable is our perspective on it, not the situation itself. Focusing on the present teaches our minds that the future is out of our control.
What I learned through my journey is that whatever we are experiencing in life, we can handle it, even if our eating disorder convinces us otherwise.
Most importantly, living with eating disorders and choosing recovery is a courageous step, so we know that we are strong enough to deal with whatever.