The decision to choose recovery over an eating disorder (ED) is one of the most rewarding decisions you will ever make. However, the recovery journey itself is not easy and there are many recovery fears that need to be overcome along the way. When I am working with individuals who are recovering from an ED there are many questions I ask during our first encounter (ED history, goals, health, etc…). However, there is one question that I feel is particularly vital in recovery and that question is: "What are your recovery fears?" Being a Dietitian, the fears that I am referring to are fears related to food, hunger, health, weight and shape. (Our team of counsellors work through other non-nutritional related recovery fears). Please see below for six common recovery fears and how they can be overcome. FEAR # 1. IF I ALLOW MYSELF TO EAT NORMALLY, I WILL NOT KNOW HOW TO STOP EATING. Studies show that it is common to overeat when you have been restricting food, as it is a normal response to hunger. However, once you put an end to restriction and restraint eating behaviors, and feed your body appropriately, your body will learn to trust that it will no longer be starved, and the intense drive for food and energy will decrease. You will then be able to eat based on your specific nutritional needs and can learn to eat intuitively. FEAR # 2. I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO EAT WHEN I AM NOT DIETING. When you banish restrictive eating and eliminate fear foods you can begin to learn how to become an intuitive eater. This means your body will direct your eating based on internal cues of appetite, hunger, satiety and fullness, as well as taste preferences, pleasure, and a sense of well-being. Once these tools are learned, they are never forgotten, and you can leave the world of dieting behind you! FEAR # 3. IF I LEGALIZE ALL FOODS, MY EATING WILL BE OUT OF CONTROL. Legalizing food means, rather than relying on external factors to determine what you are and are not allowed to eat, you learn to rely on your internal cues (as mentioned above) to guide your food decisions. Once you allow these cues to lead your food decisions you will feel more in control. This is because your body and mind will be working together to make food decisions vs working against each other. For example: ED brain: "I cannot eat that muffin for my snack even though I am hungry as it is not allowed on my diet plan".
Recovery brain: "I am hungry so I should eat that muffin now for my snack as it will provide me with enough fuel to carry me through to the end of my work shift and prevent me from getting overly hungry when I get home from work".
FEAR #4. IF I ALLOW MYSELF TO EAT NORMALLY, MY WEIGHT WILL INCREASE AND CONTINUE TO GO UP. If you are underweight, your body will need to restore and repair its self to be become healthy again, so naturally your weight will go up. However, once your set point is reached and you continue to eat based on your internal cues of appetite, hunger, satiety, fullness, taste preferences, pleasure, and a sense of well-being, your body will maintain its weight. FEAR #5. DUE TO THE YEARS OF DIETING, I HAVE RUINED MY METABOLISM. Your metabolism has slowed due to restrictive and/or sporadic eating habits. However, once you begin to eat regularly and include adequate food to fuel your bodies needs, your metabolism will function optimally again. This is because your body will learn to trust that it is no longer going to be deprived of essential calories and nutrients. FEAR #6. IF I GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO EAT, I WILL NOT EAT HEALTHFULLY. Studies show that when people are given free choice, access to a variety of food, eat mindfully and make peace with food, they will include in their diet a variety of mostly nutritious foods with a balanced amount of “fun foods”. This is because when we are eating intuitively our internal cues are providing us with information on how to make food choices based on our specific nutritional needs, our taste preferences, our sense of well-being, and our pleasure responses. Please incorporate the above information as a tool to help battle your own recovery fears. Full recovery is possible!