Structured Eating For Bulimia Recovery
A structured eating plan with sufficient calories and nutrients needs to form part of the underlying structure for a bulimia free life. This involves pre-planned meals at planned times throughout the day – usually eating 3 pre-planned meals and 3 snacks a day – every day, so aiming to eat every 3 hours.
Now to be eating every 3 hours may seem a lot and it can be very difficult to get your head around this concept initially. You might mistakenly think that eating like this will have you gain weight but it’s not that straightforward.
When you have bulimia your body fights back – it is fighting for your survival and one day you’ll be thankful that it was. And so right now it is doing everything it can to prevent you losing weight by lowering your metabolism, storing what you eat as fat rather than use it for energy and causing you to have those food cravings, urges to binge and being unable to stop eating once you start.
When you follow a structured eating plan you are letting your body know it will get a steady stream of nutrition (which will stay in your body). Your body responds almost immediately by reducing the intensity and frequency of the cravings and urges and as it comes to trust the availability of food they disappear.
You’ll find you no longer need to purge because you no longer binge!
And by eating regularly and spacing meals and snacks in this ‘structured’ way you massively boost your metabolism and increase your energy levels.
You know when you’re suffering from bulimia you forget just how terrific you can feel in your own body when you are feeding it well and just how great food really is.
There’s an amazing vitality and energy, and because your body now knows it will be getting food on a regular basis, that it is getting the nutrition required to function properly, it feels satisfied; the mind calms down, the obsessive thoughts and cravings dissipate as do the psychological changes caused by the effects of under-eating. And you can once again enjoy your food.
Depending on the individual person, the time it takes for the body to come out of survival mode varies; so don’t be alarmed if you gain a little weight initially. However some of the weight gain is often a perceived weight gain caused by the ‘bulimia bloat’ a common symptom of recovery as your body adjusts and balances. Also when you’re not used to it, just having food in your stomach can make you feel fat. The thing is what you’re feeling is food in your stomach which can feel strange initially.
And the transit of food through the body can be slow initially due to the lowered metabolism.
Any weight gained falls off naturally as your body comes back to balance and your metabolism speeds up.
The fear of getting fat gradually disappears because you don’t, as does the fear of being out of control around food because you aren’t. And you begin to trust yourself and your body, which is a really great feeling.
The key is to plan your meals ahead of time. This depends on your schedule and preferences. You may want to plan your meals the evening before, or a couple of days or even a week at a time.
Shopping for nutrient rich foods, planning and making meals in advance really helps because the less you have to think about food and what to eat the better; especially at the start.
It can really help to get some support at this time – to help keep things in perspective – such as meal portions and to share the small victories.
You know, we tend to focus on the failures and forget the victories, and these are really important to celebrate however small.
As you no doubt know, you need to eat some foods more frequently than others. For example eating, high quality protein – meat, fish, tofu, beans, complex carbohydrates – brown rice, potatoes, whole grain breads and pasta, essential oils (fats aren’t not bad for you – but essential to healthy body functioning), a variety of vegetables and fruit every day.
And every day add one or two of your previously forbidden or ‘bad’ foods into your meal plan – either as part of a main meal or a snack. Eating these foods can cause a little anxiety at first but this will disappear.
It’s not that these foods in and of themselves cause you to binge and it’s not the foods themselves that cause the anxiety and fear but it is YOUR THOUGHTS YOU ARE HAVING ABOUT THE FOOD.
In fact it is a good time to drop labeling food ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as Shakespeare says “there’s nothing ‘good’ or ‘bad’ only out thinking that makes it so“.
No food eaten in reasonable amounts is too fattening or too addictive. Very soon you’ll see that you can handle any food and that they have no control over you.
So make a list of the Top 10 foods you desire or that you have labeled ‘bad’ but like and make sure you include them in your meal planning J
A very weird thing happens when you allow yourself to eat what you desire and that is when you stop avoiding foods you want, the desire to have them goes!
Have you ever heard of the expression, ‘what you resists persists’ – it also applies to food. When you allow yourself these foods they lose their hold over you. They become normal and you feel no anxiety eating them and in time you’ll be able to ‘hear’ what your body really needs.
To do this successfully, you do need to make sure you are eating regularly and that means not allowing yourself to get hungry – so planning ahead is crucial as is sticking to the plan!! That is eating something roughly every 3 hours.
The thing is right now you probably can’t trust or rather don’t hear your natural hunger and fullness sensations so you may find yourself having to eat when you’re not hungry but please do stick to the plan as it does work.
This can all be quite scary – but if you can remember it is your thoughts ABOUT eating and food that are scary and making you anxious not the food or eating itself.
And here’s a really important thing to notice that YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS CORRECT!!!!!!
By bringing awareness to your thinking will enable you to see that this is true. So NOTICE what you notice, as you embark on this new way of eating and restoring ‘normal’ eating patterns and behavior.
Notice your thoughts and emotions that arise by even considering adding your favorite foods and eating every 3 hours.
This might be a good time to listen to the videos again – it’s amazing what you hear on subsequent listening’s that you hadn’t heard previously – Why is that? Because sometimes we simply tune out and or because we have a deeper understanding and hear what is said in a ‘new’ way
Don’t feel pressurized to eat something that you know you’ll have trouble keeping down or cause anxiety to start with. And if your food choices look a bit bizarre – so what!.
- Sit down to eat – always.
- Eat mindfully – be aware of what you are eating, savor the taste and texture and enjoy.
- Consider food as your friend! It is vital to sustain your life, your health and well being.
Here is a rough guide for structured eating…
Bear in mind whilst the content (the food you choose to eat) is changeable the structure (the timing of eating every two and half to 3 hours is not)
7.30am Breakfast (but of course this depends when you wake up but by eating within 30 minutes of waking up you kick start your metabolism)
10.30 am Snack
1.00 pm Lunch
4.00 pm Snack
6.30 pm Dinner
8.30 pm Snack
A lot of the urges will die out as you start eating regularly on a consist basis, so by starting a structured eating plan as soon as possible and sticking to it would be great.
Once the hunger urges subside because of eating sufficiently the urges caused by deprivation and the urges arising from habitual responses to emotions and upsets die down.
There can be a certain amount of anxiety about increasing food intake / adding in calories especially if you’ve been following a restricted diet for a period of time –that of your own creation of that of some ‘expert’. But to be honest the only ‘person‘ that knows the ‘right’ amount of calories for you is your body! And it doesn’t always want the same amount everyday.
The thing is, at the end of the day your body is the best nutritionist in town not some diet guru or food manufacturer. Your body will let you know when the calorie intake is right but this won’t be X calories a day as such but more of an ebb and flow – that is some days more than others. So some days you’ll eat more than others
Be curious about what your body is telling you.
You’ll know when you’ve reached the ‘correct’ amount for your body because you’ll no longer be triggered or have the urge to binge and food will simply not occupy you to the degree it does now and you’ll experience a sense of freedom
Left to it’s own devices the body manages everything pretty darn well however dieting interrupts this as we go off on our own agenda and foods become labeled good and bad, with some foods becoming ‘fashionably’ bad such as fat despite the fact that the body needs a certain amount of it for proper functioning.
Learning something new can be challenging and takes time. So take it easy, take it at your own pace and be kind with yourself. If you screw up or relapse get back on track – eat at the next set time (set times can be a little flexible – but not so flexible you miss them!).
Also consider all the good things you can about food and what it can do for you in positive ways.
Please note that this email is for general advice ONLY, it is not a professional opinion or advice. I’m sharing from my own experiences and research. If you have very low body weight, underweight or have any deficiencies, intolerances, injuries or similar that may effect your diet in any way then please make an appointment with your doctor. If you encounter problems such as oedema (swelling of the extremities) , chest pains, palpitations, aches etc go and see your doctor immediately. Complications are unlikely, but it is always best to get checked
Bulimia Recovery Coach
Julie won a 15 year battle with bulimia over 30 years ago and now mentors and coaches others to bulimia freedom. She is a compassionate, caring bulimia recovery coach who brings a unique and powerful perspective on recovery that has helped people from all walks of life, not just stop bingeing and purging but learn how to love themselves and their bodies and create a life they love.