Food Variety in Recovery
Now more than ever, we have access to a wide variety of foods all year around. With so many options, we are exposed to the different tastes, textures, aromas and nutrients that different foods have to offer; however, those struggling with an eating disorder may have a restricted intake and may consume a limited number of foods.
Since individual foods have a different nutrient profile, restricting certain foods or complete food groups can lead to nutrient deficiencies, which are associated with different symptoms. For example, an iron deficiency leads to weakness and fatigue; while a calcium deficiency can lead to the development of osteoporosis, a condition where bones become more fragile and are more prone to breaking. By working on increasing variety in recovery, it is easier to get all of the nutrients that your body needs to function.
Another benefit of increasing variety in recovery is experiencing greater freedom with food, enjoying new foods and developing your taste preferences. Having the freedom to choose a variety of options also helps to experience food in a social way, such as going for lunch at a new restaurant, grabbing dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or enjoying a delicious meal at a family celebration.
There is some research to indicate that eating a wider variety leads to improved outcomes in eating disorder recovery. Additionally, increasing variety helps to ensure that you are getting enough, which helps you to reach your set point range and gives your body and brain the energy it needs every day.
Eating the same foods all the time leads to burnout with eating. Even those who don’t struggle with an eating disorder get tired of the same foods very quickly. Variety leads to less repetitiveness with food, greater enjoyment and increased palatability and satisfaction with eating.
Thinking about incorporating more variety into your intake can feel overwhelming. Start slowly, and work on incorporating different textures and flavors. It could be as simple as switching up spices on a chicken breast or making a baked potato instead of mashed potatoes. As variety increases, food tastes better and eating becomes a more satisfying experience.
In recovery from an eating disorder, it is important to challenge a variety of foods, especially foods that may feel less safe. Eating pizza for every meal gets boring and may have some adverse health outcomes, but eating broccoli for every meal also gets boring and causes us to miss out on important nutrients and energy. Working on increasing variety challenges the eating disorder and helps move you towards recovery, a more positive relationship with food and freedom from your eating disorder.