Consistency in Recovery
Author: Rhea Lewandoski R.D.
Consistent and mechanical eating can lay the foundation that supports recovery.
Disordered eating or eating disorder behaviours can disrupt our connection to our bodies and food in multiple ways, including but not limited to disrupting our hunger and fullness signals, appetite, digestion, gastrointestinal symptoms, preferences etc. When someone is experiencing eating disorder behaviours or mental restriction (food rules) it might activate physical/mental urges around food. You may notice binge urges, preoccupation with food and eating, and feelings of deprivation. If you have experienced food rules or disordered eating behaviours giving yourself permission to eat may feel like breaking a rule or feel “uncontrolled”.
These narratives, thoughts, and feelings dissipate over time with consistent nourishment. Regular and consistent eating will provide your body the ability to do repair work and allow you some more brain space to access recovery thoughts and actions. Having structure to provide your body with consistent intake will also begin the process of building that connection between your brain and body to bring back hunger and fullness cues, allow your digestion to adapt, and allow space to explore your true preferences, and food neutrality. Consistent intake is a very important aspect of recovery. Here are some examples of why consistency is important, how you know if you are being consistent, how you could determine if you aren’t being consistent and ways to increase consistency.
Why is consistency important?
Decrease urges and preoccupation with food
Regular fuel for functioning
Normalizing hunger signals
Challenging the ED
Body can learn to trust
How do you know that you are being consistent?
Energy and decreased fatigue
Eating every few hours
Regular bowel movements
Sticking to meal plan/structure/routine
Fear foods are being challenged
Obsessive thinking and preoccupation decreases
Not regularly waking up hungry
Mind is alert
Ability to engage in joyful movement without compensation from the ED
Keep up with day-to-day activities
Satisfied after meals
Less anxiety and stabilized mood
Strength and endurance
Better problem solving
Weight restoration/nutritional rehabilitation
Challenging ED rules regularly
Changes in how think/feel/talk about food
Regular spending on adequate amount of food
Flexibility with food
How do you know that you aren’t being consistent?
Listening to the ED
Choosing safe foods often
Skipping meals or snacks
Decrease in energy
Struggle with nutritional rehabilitation/weight restoration
Always being hungry
Not eating every few hours
Irregular bowel movements
ED is predominant voice
ED is making excuses
Missing parts of a meal
Strategies to increase consistency
Pre plan meals
Mechanical eating/eating on a schedule
Reminders or timers
Accountability and support
One meal or snack at a time
All action, no thought
Reframing ED thoughts
Meditation or grounding
Awareness of hunger cues
Making food a priority
Asking for support
Distraction during mealtime or when urges arise