I remember this moment pretty vividly. A battle of epic proportions. On one side, the brownie. The other side, the voice of recovery. In the middle... me. On the table was this piece of chocolaty dessert starring up at me with beady eyes. The voice of recovery gently coaching me that it is just dessert. A frantic 'me' running between the two, trying to decide who I would listen to.
We all face freaky foods. Those that make us want to jump out of our skin, makes us feel out of control and/or nervous. Next time this occurs, try to remember the following:
#1 Wise Mind - We have a rational side and an emotional side to our thinking. When we only use one side, we run the risk of missing out on important information. Using the example above, emotionally I didn’t want to eat the brownie because I thought it would make me feel worthless, defeated, unwanted and so on. Rationally, my brain was telling me that it was simply flour, eggs, cocoa, etc. By considering both emotion and rational, also known as using wise mind, I could make a decision that had the best course of action in mind.
#2 Opposite Action - I like to think of this skill as looking fear directly in the eye. Food ‘X’ scares you, making you want to avoid it? It probably means you should eat it. Now, I’m not saying you have to jump in and eat whatever it is in that moment that leads you to feeling fearful, however, make it a point to challenge yourself to eat it with the appropriate support needed for you to do it as safely and successfully as possible. Opposite action can be a great way of reclaiming what the eating disorder has taken away from you!
#3 Recovery is Tough. Take Care of Yourself! - There is no way to get through recovery without learning the necessity of self-care. In the above, I did end up eating the brownie, however I was still emotionally distressed afterwards… the distress simply shifted from the thought of eating the brownie to having actually eaten it. There was no immediate cheering after having made the decision that was pro-recovery (that came later)… I still had to learn to address the emotional need that was trying to get comfort through restricting. I had to learn other ways of comforting myself, such as talking with others, taking time for myself, crying, be gentle with and learning to forgive myself, etc.
#4 All Foods Fit - Remember, all foods fit. Try to take the judgment out of food. They aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’… food is food, and we need a variety of it. If we can shift out thinking in this way, removing the label, we will learn some invaluable information about ourself. Ask yourself, “what would it mean if I ate ‘X’ that I am so afraid of?” This question could lead to other areas that could be helpful to explore with a therapist.