Why adopting a new diet attracts us so much in recovery.

Before continuing please know that I’m not hating on any diet and say this with a certain group of people in mind. Not every follower of the vegan/paleo/raw or a similar diet is necessarily eating disordered.

Recovering from an eating disorder is hard. Very hard. Especially because it means letting go, allowing the life and appearance you had to change.

I’m not making myself an exception here. Letting go of control is the biggest struggle for me. Intuitive eating is scary for the very reason it offers no set rules. Am I eating too much? Just out of boredom or could I actually still be hungry? Does that little occasional itch mean I should cut out [insert food]? Is eating x amount of fat okay?

It’s been said a million times already but bears repeating here:

Extremes are easy, balance is not. But what exactly does that mean in terms of eating and exercise? I’m no epert but here are my thoughts on a phenomenon I’ve noticed on social media for years.


Many people all over Instagram – yes, that one neverending source of post inspiration again – are following lifestyles like vegan, high carb low fat (HCLF), paleo, ‘clean’ eating, raw or keto suddenly feel amazing and shun their previous lifestyles. They could never ever eat [insert food] again. They have so much more energy and . And oh, yes, grains/fat/dairy/insert food not compliant with new diet never worked well for their system or appealed to them. They were the child that hated candy and sugar is the devil in anyway so they’re glad they never crave it.

All nice and well. It’s your freedom to post what you want. Only: I [usually] don’t buy it. While yes, for people with a healthy mindset any lifestyle can work well – recovery is different. Or not only that but anybody who went about exploring and following one of these lifestyles primarily for health reasons.

Bremen_Vengo_stuffed eggplant_March 2015

Any kind of diet comes with a set of rules, occasionally some sort of ‘guru’ or other role models with thousands of followers on social media to look up to and ask for advice. What you’re allowed to eat and what not. The macro balance to strive for. If you’re choosing one like veganism for ethical reasons it’s not should or shouldn’t but a conscious decision to abstain from certain foods for the benefit of animals and yes, potentially your own well-being, too. The problem is that there’s a fine line for anybody recovering from an eating disorder when choosing any kind of diet.

I absolutely believe it’s possible to choose a diet different from the one you grew up on after recovery. And yes, there are always exceptions. People who can change their diet in the midst of recovery and in fact suddenly find it easier to gain, tackle fear foods or eat out again. But I’d venture to guess this is the minority. Yes, I’m lacto-vegetarian and yes, that is what some people would consider restrictive. And also yes, I do second-guess my choices every now and then to make sure they’re not coming from a place of restriction. Though I’d been vegetarian for a few years before my ED set I still consider myself in a learning process as with many things in recovery.

It’s hard to give any final advice on how to determine whether or not somebody’s choice for a certain diet comes from a healthy mindset or not. My best suggestion would be to both ask question yourself and your choices regularly as well as having an outside person – at best an expert like a dietitian – evaluate your recovery journey. Which in itself is hard to judge as a person might be long recovered physically but the mind could take years longer to heal [so the “weight-restored” claim doesn’t say much]. A time when our environment deems us healthy but we might still be easily susceptible to any kind of detox/new diet.

Baked II

We want [food and life] freedom but the idea of letting go simultaneously scares us. Hence why we’re all ears the very second we hear of a new trend: intermittent fasting? Sugar detox? HCLF? LCHF? Tell. Me. more. <- the typical – occasionally unconscious – response [= clicking on the title of a post promising information before you gave a second thought on how beneficial reading it would be for you] of anybody who has dealt with any kind of disordered eating, is recovering from an ED, body image struggles or constantly trying to improve their diet.

Potential questions to ask or let somebody else ask you: Are you still consequently following the path of recovery you did before [i.e. trying higher fat foods, “unhealthy”/less nutritious foods], socializing more instead of using food as an excuse to opt out of invitations? Are you being flexible with trace amounts of, say, dairy if you’re usually eating vegan?

Like I said: I’m not perfect here, either. Hence why I also won’t change anything about my diet in terms of cutting any more foods out. Enough about me and my ramblings, though. I’m dropping the micro and am curious for your take on the issue.



Happiness-inducing today: An overall good day filled with lots of smaller and bigger happiness-inducers.

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Once more no specific question. Just tell me any thoughts you have on the issue.


24 thoughts on “Why adopting a new diet attracts us so much in recovery.

  1. Lyss says:

    Wow I love this post and completely agree. I see so many people following very restrictive diets throughout the recovery process and while I understand being vegan for ethical reasons, there comes a fine line between you wanting to make that choice or your eating disorder. Definitely agree with to on this post girl, such a great read! Xoxo

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      Thank you, Lyss! Changing to rather restrictive diets is a huge trend among those in recovery. Like you, I can completely relate to ethic reasons as those are why I’m vegetarian, too. But when somebody has an ED background it’s incredibly hard to tell where that kind of decision is coming from.

  2. Erin@BeetsPerMinute says:

    Love this post and agree with so much of it. It’s the discussion on the other side of what I’ve posted about today, really. My post for today is all about how while I was in the recovery process from bulimia, I relapsed while following a popular weight loss program because the structure was too vague and promoted my bad habits again. So much to think about.

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      Thanks, Erin! There are always two sides to an issue so I need to check out your post, Erin. There really are a lot of things to keep in mind on the topic of following any kind of specific diet or meal plan in recovery.

  3. Amanda @ .running with spoons. says:

    Great post, lady! That’s actually exactly why I gave up on trying to stick to a vegetarian diet while I was in recovery — just to make sure it wasn’t coming from a mindset of restriction. I definitely think it’s possible to recover while following a certain type of diet and gain both weight and health, but I also think it’s super important to be conscious of -why- those certain foods are being restricted in the first place.

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      It was the same for me in going back to a vegetarian diet when I noticed that while I did eat vegan for ethical reasons my ED still found its way in. For some people dietary changes truly enable positive change in recovery but it’s a very slippery slope to see what plays into the decision.

  4. Kate Bennett says:

    Sure, people may be find freedom in a particular diet, but it seems somewhat like artificial freedom. Like you said, the rule set that comes with a diet is very appealing because it tells you exactly what to do. When I was in recovery I didn’t follow a particular diet, but I was very strict about following my exchange list and meal plan set by my dietitian. Luckily those meal plans translated into “normal” eating patterns, but I think the pretend constraints of the meal plan helped me to feel better about eating. That said, I fear for people in recovery who are following an extreme instagram-er with no credentials rather than a professional like a dietitian.

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      Don’t get me started on some of those popular Instagram accounts. People shouting their ‘healthy’ advice from the rooftops without having any professional background – possibly considering themselves and being considered by their followers because they started nutrition studies – are getting me slightly mad. I think they don’t realize the extent of the impact their posts have on easily impressed followers.

  5. Beauty in Christ (@Emily11949309) says:

    This is SO true. It used to give me a new sense of ‘purpose’ and ‘false confidence’ to do a new diet. The more I’ve found fulfillment in seeking God and loving Jesus Christ, the less a diet has seemed appealing, and the more a normal, balanced way of eating has come to the forefront.

  6. Morgan @ Managing Mommyhood says:

    Oh my goodness, YES. I’m totally with you, I think it’s all bull. I’ve never suffered an ED, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in all of hte crazy different eating styles these days. I totally don’t get the HCLF one, like how does one live on that?

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      It’s really hard to differentiate between decisions coming from an eating disordered vs. non-ED mindset. Granted, I do see HCLF – if practiced with a relaxed approach – as easy to live. Basically lots of grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables. The problem is when people take it to extremes and start worrying about eating almost no fat. Which I’ve sadly noticed being the case for quite a few people on Instagram.

  7. Ellie says:

    I think people sometimes adopt a new diet because they think it will help fix them. They don’t think what they are doing is working and just need something new. It’s almost like sometimes people change their geographic location for a fresh start, people with EDs might do the same with diet, at least for a little while. I went vegan for health reasons, not to restrict my intake, and it worked for me for two years. A month or so ago, I felt really repulsed by the things in the movement and a sense for God (I am very Christ following) that I didn’t need to be as vegan as I was. So now I incorporate some dairy and am more relaxed about things. I still feel it’s bad to kill animals, but I don’t feel bad for not being vegan. I am not perfect. Changing my diet for a while though helped me break barriers in other ways to help with my sometimes weird relationship with food. I needed it. I feel like I fixed my problems. Now I don’t need it. I don’t know if that made sense. But I agree with your post 🙂

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      Thank you for chiming in, Ellie. I’d actually been wondering if you’d stopped eating vegan for some time. Not because I was judging because I absolutely don’t. I’m happy your faith helped you find a new balance for yourself. Like you, I used to eat vegan and then incorporated a few dairy products again though it didn’t change my belief that killing animals is awful. Guilt is still around when I eat dairy at times but I’m trying to reassure myself it’s okay.
      What you said about people using different diets to fix underlying issues not related to food makes a lot of sense. I’m glad it worked for you.

  8. Jade says:

    I think there’s also that we are more susceptible to the marketing ploys that the diet industry puts out there. I know better. I know how the body works, I’ve spent several years studying it, but I’ll still hear about a diet or magic pill that claims to lead to weight loss and therefore happiness, along with maybe better heart health or whatever, and I will stop and think, “hm, maybe I want that.” Because those are all things I tired to achieve when I was deep into my disorder, so those wants are still in my brain.

  9. Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves says:

    Very well said. I myself have been contemplating Whole30 for the sake of my skin and GI tract, and I do believe that I could follow the rules without calorie/carb restriction. However, I am not following it at this time for practical reasons (being in college and having dining halls and not that much time/money to spend on special foods). Nevertheless, I would still have to be extra mindful of my choices— whether I’m just “trying to follow the rules” or if I’m actually being restrictive. As someone with a past eating disorder, it’s important to keep my intentions in check, because, as we know, good intentions from the start can easily turn into obsessions.
    Thank you for this post!

  10. mylittletablespoon says:

    I think, often, people excitedly lunge at the idea of a new diet when they are unsatisfied or bored in other elements in their life. A diet is a tangible way of gaining a sense of focus, purpose, challenge and discipline. Of course, these decisions can be because of authentic beliefs. But if the choice is not coming from ethical or other beliefs, they simply do not work to fill those desires of ours, or not for very long. I do believe it is possible to recovery following a vegan or vegetarian diet – it only poses extra work when having to ask yourself if your choices are coming form the right place, and also in having to communicate your decisions to those around you who may think it is part of your disorder (which is so very hard to do). I stopped being vegetarian as I began to recover, but to this day I still get the urge to go back, or try some other new diet. When the urge passes, I realize it was not based on healthy feelings.

  11. Loved and Worthy of Love says:

    You’re right on with this post! While most people might be able to somewhat innocently try out a new diet, it’s never a gold idea for those pursuing recovery to do so. I think resorting to any kind of restriction in recovery keeps disordered thoughts alive, and we need to be careful to stay aware of when were triggered to do so. Thanks for sharing your ideas on this!

    • Miss Polkadot says:

      True. What makes it hard is that we might see ourselves as “recovered enough” to make any choice of that kind but it might just be our ED still manipulating our thoughts. There are situations where I have to second-guess myself, too.

  12. Cayanne Marcus @healthyezsweet says:

    Wow. This is so important and explains a lot. Many people do search for a new outlet took exert control during recovery..enter a new diet “motivated” by healthier / less restrictive grounds. But as you showed it isn’t always so. Balance and Intuitive Eating have helped me refrain from any one diet or seeing my control issues pop back up.

  13. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets says:

    I don’t really know the answer here since I can’t really relate to the mindset. I will say it seems easy to blame food choices (or lack thereof) on a diet, than a disorder. I will also say food intolerances might be as a result of still not having fully gotten your health back. When you throw something so out of whack for years, your body struggles to regulate. Until that happens, it’s easy to see intolerances or reactions, when they might not exist in the long run, especially if stress is involved. The reaction could be coming solely from the last piece as opposed to the food.

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