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.

Thinking-Out-Loud

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.

 

Date your diet

If you’ve been reading healthy living blogs for a while you’ll have noticed something. Not actually what I’d call a ‘trend’ but a phenomenon: vegan or vegetarian bloggers quitting their diets and reintroducing dairy, eggs and/or meat. Usually voicing their decision very carefully with an air of expected accusations about to rain down on them. I won’t point out any bloggers in particular here because I wouldn’t want to increase the pressure on them. What I can say, though, is that I could easily name more than half a dozen – both in the German blog world and overseas – who have made this decision in the past year.

To say it caused some attention would be a mild understatement.

Uproar. Rage. Bullies.

Why?? Why do people feel compelled to shun somebody, leave hurtful comments or even more serious threats? What is the crime those bloggers committed? They changed their diets. Neither did they:

Imply everybody had to follow their lead and stop eating a certain way.

Intend to hurt anybody’s feelings [or at least I don’t assume they did].

Shame their previous diets as disordered or out of the norm. They simply found those very diets weren’t their match anymore and that’s where we’re getting to the thoughts my mind spurred out …

The parallel between dating and diets

What I’m applauding them for is not for giving up on veganism or vegetarianism. Clearly not because it’s still the diet I follow myself and – in my dreams – the majority of people all over the world should adopt [you know I’m exaggerating]. Rather, I think anybody who can rationally see when it’s time to make changes in their lives even if they’re uncomfortable and against their beliefs deserves respect. Not public shaming in the blog world and on Instagram. Wouldn’t we even encourage our best friends to leave a guy that hurts more than he benfits them? And just like with dating  some of the points can be translated to diets.

Date Your Diet

We get blind-sided really wanting to love that one guy/diet – at the worst overlooking the fact he’s not benefitting us at all anymore.

I can see how this was true for me personally. Veganism and its principles seemed [actually still seem] so right for me and made a lot of sense. It was hard to admit – even to myself – that it wasn’t the right diet for me at this point in life.

People compliment us for what a great match we make.

On the diet side this could be praise for our vegan/raw/paleo recipes or the ‘glow’ we perspire while eating a certain way. The tons of energy we have.

We make plans for the future.

Probably more so with dating on first glance [“We’ll buy a house, then get two children, spend all holidays in our beach house …”] but in a way it’s true for diets, too. We might think about how this will influence our families, write cookbooks or build a brand around our diet. Until a potential break-up throws us into a medium life crisis.

That’s why I suggest you to consider your diet a date. No commitment, no promises to anybody. And isn’t the beauty of dating that you don’t have to settle just yet – or anytime? You can flirt with a hot guy for an evening, a month, a few years – and in the end tie the knot with a wholly different one or never commit for eternity.

Diet dating can and should be like that: accepted – normal. So go out there, date around and never feel bad for cheating on your current diet –  be it for health or any other reasons. How you eat does not define you as a person. Life’s too short to fully commit in this part of it.

Your turn: Tell me your ‘dating history’ or whichever thoughts you have on the topic.

Happiness-inducing today: Harvesting the first kabocha of the season in our garden. All mine!

No questions today but whatever comes to your mind on the topic.

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Eschewing the guilt

Hello there and happy Monday! The sun came out after all today which made for an awesome Sunday treat and a stellar finish to the week. Here’s to hoping the [not as awesome] weather forecast for the next days is totally off. Contrary to my assumptions in my last post Sunday turned out to be gorgeous. Sunshine, around 60°F and just perfect for a nice long walk. I wouldn’t mind this marvelous weather to stick around for a long time.

Flowers_April 2014

On another note and explaining this post’s title it’s about time I spill the beans about the allusion to another ‘C’ food I made in my Currently post: Cheese. There it is, the mysterious last current food. Not an unusual one for many but for me it is significant. If you’ve been reading for a while already you might remember me using a term Sarah coined and calling myself a vegan with benefits. Up until now the benefits had been limited to dairy in the form of Greek yogurt [or Quark for all Germans]. Which seemed semi-okay to me because there’s no vegan equivalent and my diet was [and is] still largely plant-based. The reason why I decided to start eating cheese again after mulling it over for a while was finding what had caused me to eschew it before: Fear. And:

Guilt.

The latter is worth looking at a little more closely. Why guilt? Because I felt eating cheese would mean I’d failed at being vegan. Disappointed others. Really, though? Nobody expects me to be vegan. It was also relieving for me to see a number of other previously vegan bloggers listen to their cravings and reintroduce eggs, dairy or at times fish and meat back into their diet. In order to practice what I preached – congratulating others who didn’t let their diet keep them from listening to their cravings – it was only consequential for me to do the same. Not only stop beating myself up every time I ate dairy before but go that step further trying cheese [seeking out vegetarian ones only] again.

Cheese

A recent meal at a friend’s – cheese included.

… and the world truly kept spinning.

For me, true recovery means letting go of food rules and guilt around eating.  As well as not letting the label I’ve put on my diet keep me from satisfying my cravings. Yes, there’s vegan cheese, delicious kinds even, but I’d still been feeling a lack of satisfaction with my diet lately. It might be due to the lack of cheese, it might be something else. I’m leaving the outcome of my little diet experimentation open for now. And isn’t that the beauty of experimentation? We can never tell the results in advance. It’s a journey of trial and error.

Ratatouille cheese bake

To make this a point here: I don’t in anyway think veganism in itself is a sign of eating-disordered behaviour for everybody following it. In fact, eating vegan made me get more creative in the kitchen that I’d been during my previous years as a vegetarian. Experimenting with vegan dishes has been exciting for me and I plan on continuing to do so and eat largely vegan. Just throwing in the odd bit of cheese here and there when I feel like it. What I’ve noticed during these past first weeks was that I craved cheese one day, had it and was satisfied. The next time I’d use a bit more [too much] and not think of it or miss it for days. Maybe I’ll be fed up by cheese and dairy in a few weeks or months. Maybe I’ll keep eating them. What I know, though, is that whichever way I go I want to eat without guilt. Because living without food guilt is a marvelous way of living.

MiMM_new

Happiness inducing today: Walking my favourite longer route again for the first time without hip pain. Do I sound like an old lady saying this? Maybe. Was it a great feeling? Definitely.

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Have you ever dealt with a similar situation of reintroducing foods that you’d previously escheweded?

Do you label your diet?