Recovering from an eating disorder is challenging and going all-in is an important part of the journey. But it can also be terrifying. I’ve learned first hand once you eliminate all restrictions, the body tends to crave the more “nutrient-dense” foods. These foods are often the ones that were previously restricted. The foods in which diet culture and my eating disorder deemed “bad.”
Going all-in is terrifying
At first, this was immensely upsetting and I couldn’t let go of my fear of weight gain. I thought I failed because my body wasn’t craving the whole foods I would eat normally.
But recovery isn’t about eating “normally.” Recovery is about RECOVERY.
And going all-in means you are letting your body have total control. I can promise you, this period of craving only “nutrient dense” foods and feeling hungry all the time is TEMPORARY!
Don’t be alarmed! Essentially, this is the body’s response to the “famine” being over. It senses that that there are foods present in the environment that can provide the most energy to aid in the quickest repair— foods like peanut butter, chocolate, pizza, etc.
If you find yourself craving these foods, despite trying to tell your body you “shouldn’t,” know that you need to honor them. Your body craves processed foods in recovery because they are the easiest foods to digest. Meaning that the energy can be used to restore what needs restoring!
Something I love about Tabitha Farrar is she touches quite a bit on extreme hunger and cravings in recovery. She explains why these episodes occur, and how we can learn from them. And, her own story is very similar to what a lot of others experience in recovery.
I was spending all day trying to eat “whole” foods and eat “normally.” Then I’d proceed to have episodes of extreme hunger at night because I was denying my body of what it actually NEEDED. Which happened to be the processed foods!
I learned from the episodes of extreme hunger that occurred at night. As much as the eating disorder squirmed and dug its heels in, I began incorporating these foods in my meals throughout the day. Essentially, this gives the body what is needs, all while doing some neural rewriting.
Going all-in means attacking food rules and restrictions by acknowledging them, but not listening to them.
This helps reestablish trust between you and your body. Because you are giving yourself permission to eat entirely unrestricted, so there’s no need to prepare for another “famine!”
When I began to incorporate the foods I craved at night into my daytime meals and snacks, there was a shift. At night, I didn’t experience the craving episodes anymore. If I did have cravings, they were to a much lesser degree. This can be attributed to the fact that I made note of said cravings, and accepted my body wanted them for a reason. And I accepted that eventually everything would normalize if I listened to my body and honored the cravings. The the sooner I accept it, the sooner it will pass.
Let me promise you this— YOU ARE NOT AN ANOMALY! I always believed I was. I thought that I’d just never rid myself of extreme hunger and would always dislike my body. In reality, I just needed to stop fighting my biology! We are made the way we are for a reason, and beautifully so might I add!!
Suppressing our natural body means suppressing life, personality, and happiness along with it.
The fears of going all-in
At first when I went all-in, weight gain occurred rapidly. I feared it would never stop. I thought it wouldn’t slow down. But here’s a little update, further disproving my fear; I’ve started MAINTAINING. Yes, my weight may continue to go up, should it need to, and it’s very likely it will. It might go down too. It all depends on different phases of life. It’s life! But no, I’m not going to try and suppress it or start restricting again. I’m just gonna let her do her thing because, when it comes down do it, when has my body ever steered me wrong? She knows far more than I do! I’m learning to trust her and let her do what she does best.
And as I mentioned, you are not an anomaly.
Cravings serve a purpose.
Cravings change. Weight fluctuates. But weight isn’t my focus. It’s a good indicator, but it does NOT define who someone is. Rather, I am going by indicators such as my hormone function, diminishing physical ailments brought on by anorexia, and the confidence that my body is SMART AS HELL. By noticing the returning desire to see friends, and yearning I feel to go for a run or a hike. (Not doing so yet, but it’s exciting to think about it). Just taking note of any positive behaviors, and jumping for joy at the absence of any ED ones!
So, I leave you with this today; feel the fear, but do it anyway.
Your body will thank you. She knows what she’s doing. YOU are beautiful, YOU are loved, and YOU are incredible, always.
thank you for writing this blogpost. I am also a big fan of Tabitha Farrars approach and believe that this is the only way we can get fully recovered (physically and mentally).
I was just wondering how you deal with not exercising at all? I found myself falling back into restrictive behaviours once I’ve started to exercise again. I believe that forcing yourself to not do any exercise at all is the best way to mentally rewire from an eating disorder. What is your view on that?
I am urgently searching for people who REALLY went All-In and did not compensate with exercising, though I feel it is very rare.
All the best in your journey and God bless,
Thank you for your comment, it’s something I struggle with as well : )
I think the solution to this situation is to make our perception of exercising evolve.
Based on multiple professional opinions I have encountered on the net, I have come to the conclusion that exercising is not to be seen as means to control our external appearance but more as a way to feel pleasure and freedom. Especially in the case of people recovering from EDs, sports must ideally be performed only with the intention to procure such joy! Hereby, what is seen as “exercising” should change as well- even taking a long walk should be considered exercising!
Going all-in regarding sports simply means exercising only when one sincerely desires to do so and only in a pleasant manner. If one does not feel such a desire at all it is perfectly okay not to! What I would suggest is trying fun things such as Zumba or taking a long walk with a friend and then focus on the positive effects it has on our well-being instead of the calories burned or the intensity of the exercise.
Hope this could be helpful in some way!