Friday, February 26, 2010

Building a Bridge from ED to Intuitive Eating, Part 5

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“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

In keeping aligned with the, “Food For Thought Pyramid” we are going to use nutritional counsel sparingly. I am going to provide you with some general guidelines and show you how you can tailor a personal ‘plan’ to help meet your individual needs and aid you in building a bridge between where you are now, to becoming a natural, intuitive eater. We will discuss some basic nutrition but we will not be getting into the areas of portions sizes, except in an extremely simplified sense. This area is going to be covered so there can be an understanding of the minimal amount of food that needs to be eaten in order to foster a sense of health and well-being. Those with ED often have faulty perceptions in this area. Much like Goldilocks, they are used to seeing the cup as verging on empty or teetering toward being overfull in their attempt to find their 'just right'. The vast majority with ED exhibit some form of restrictive eating. This statement applies whether the individual struggles with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, compulsive overeating, or all the many shades of ED in between. Those who tend toward bingeing/chronic overeating often have periods of restriction where meals are skipped or only small amounts of food are eaten in order to make an attempt to make amends for their ‘out of control’ eating. Additionally, when people binge or chronically overeat, rarely is it on nourishing foods. Binge foods stereotypically lean toward those of the play food variety… candy, pastries, chips, fast food, ice cream, and the like. These foods, though tasty, are pleasure foods. They provide little nutritional benefit. Pleasure foods are important for satisfaction. There’s room for a little pleasure in every day. However, it’s best to think of these foods as spices and seasonings. They provide variety, interest and enjoyment to our meals. They fall short when serving as the main course. This is how even someone who falls into the morbidly obese category can become nutritionally undernourished, despite their body size. In essence, many bingers and compulsive overeaters are restricting nourishing foods. All of these factors create a physiologic environment where the body is in an underfed state. This is the one element that all eating disorders have in common. Although, this will be more readily apparent in cases where an individual is chronically under-eating, restricting and in a state of semi-starvation, we have learned this applies across the board in all ED conditions.

Until this state of internal deficiency is addressed, it will be next to impossible to rely on bodily signals to guide eating choices. It’s kind of like the telephone game you used to play as a kid where you would whisper a phrase in a friend’s ear and they would pass it along. The further down the line of friends the phrase traveled, the more distorted the end message became. This is exactly the case when it comes to someone with ED being able to decipher their bodily signals. Something gets lost in translation. This is largely related to two contributing factors… severe blood sugar fluctuations and nutritional deficiencies which lead to both physical and cognitive imbalances. Until these two factors are addressed the dysfunction will remain in place. There is no way for a balanced relationship with food and body to build on that foundation. The material outlined here will help you build a new foundation that will support you fully in your recovery, improving your health physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Before I get further into this information I want to make it very clear that if you are dealing with ED/EDNOS, it is vital to get the necessary support and to work with a recovery team who specializes in eating disorder. A nutritionist who has experience working with eating disorders can be a very valuable member of your team. The knowledge I am sharing here is in no way intended to replace the counsel and guidance of an eating disorders specialist. The approach I am outlining is for informational purposes only. What you choose to do with this information is your choice alone. I encourage those who are working with nutritionists to share what is presented here. Have your nutritionist look over it to make sure it is a fit for you and your recovery program. My intention is to help those who are struggling understand that in making the transition from ED to intuitive eating, it is often necessary to build a bridge in order to get to the other side.

This ‘plan’ has an intuitive element and that’s intentional. I think it’s very important to begin the process of reconnecting with your inner guidance right off the bat, with a little structure and assistance along the way. I will not be telling you what to eat, when, or how much. I will be sharing what sound nutrition is. I will be explaining how to compose your meals to stabilize your blood sugar and moods. I will be outlining the minimum amount of food needed for the body to function. This is not a limiting factor. You are free to eat more if that is what your body requires. All foods are on the menu. You are free to eat whatever you like. In fact, I encourage you to regularly include the pleasure foods that you enjoy into your ‘plan’. This will up your satisfaction factor. I will be presenting a road map, but you are the one in the driver’s seat and it is up to you which route you take to get to the final destination.

If you want to implement this approach I strongly urge you to commit to it for at least three weeks. Your body needs some time to rebalance and for you to experience the beneficial effect that deep nourishing can bring. Give yourself that gift. Trying this out for a day or two will not do much for you. This should be viewed as part of your process toward becoming an intuitive eater.

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