I recently asked on my Instagram account if you would like to know what my last successful recovery attempt looked like and an overwhelming amount of you responded with YES, so here we go.....
I first want to emphasise that no recovery progress looks identical and my experience will be way different from yours. Just because I did it this way, doesn't mean you have to do it the exact same way.
As a coach I firmly believe in bio-individuality and I use different practices and tools with different clients. The quote “what works for me, doesn't necessarily work for you” is there for a reason.
As someone who has been recovered herself, I know that comparing oneself is a BIG thing in the eating disorder recovery community. Before you continue reading this, I want to put a TRIGGER WARNING right here.
I’m going to share a lot of meals and details about my own recovery plan and the last thing I want to create is a comparison trap. This is how I did it, I “created” it on my own, I didn't have any help except for my mum who was there for emotional support, I was dealing with extreme lyme pain, was high on oxycodin, valium, you name it because of said unbearable pain. So trust me when I say: YOU CAN’T COMPARE. Your story is a different unique one and so is mine.
The reason why I’m sharing my own last recovery attempt, is because of the following: I have tried to recover from my eating disorder about a gazillion times without any succes. Of course I made some progress here and there, but there was always a relapse just around the corner.
I personally think you need to have these 5 things to make recovery successful.
Determination/commitment: you need to have one priority and one priority only. And that priority is RECOVERY. If you need to gain weight, then start chewing sweetheart. You don’t have to follow guidelines or count calories. As someone with an eating disorder you know EXACTLY what your body wants and needs and how many calories are in any foods, so it’s a matter of eating, chewing, swallowing and repeating.
Mindfulness: I think this term has gotten misconstrued, because mindfulness is basically being aware of what you're feeling, accepting what’s there and letting the feels be the feels. So that means “FEELING THE FEAR AND DOING IT ANYWAY.” I’M ANGRY AND I’M GOING TO TAKE IT OUT ON A PILLOW INSTEAD OF MY FOOD” etc.
Someone to talk to: A coach like me, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a therapist; someone who can support you without any judgment and knows what it’s like to be scared of letting go of rituals and eating more. I couldn't have done it without my mum. That’s why I started this coaching career. I’m a lifeline for those who need constant support.
A safe space: It’s pretty much impossible (it’s possible, but it’s going to be way harder) to start recovery in a hostile environment, because your eating disorder will think it can keep you safe by implementing new rules and behaviours. Eating disorders are usually created as a protection mechanism. If you can, distance yourself from a hostile environment and create a safe space where you can focus on yourself.
Wear baggy/stretchy clothes: Who wants to be confronted with their weight gain every single day? No one. Especially in the beginning stages of recovery you’ll body will cling on to more water weight and trust me, bloating will become your middle name. Anything stretchy will make you less focused on whatever is going on weight gain/bloating wise. Also, throw out your old anorexic clothes (if you suffer from anorexia) because honey, you never want to be able to fit those jeans anymore. It’s not worth it.
Ok. So we’re now going to dig a little deeper in something fun. Aka FOOD.
I made one promise with myself. I will eat whatever and whenever I want and I won’t count calories.
Keep in mind I was dealing with unbearable extreme pain (in my eyes, but that’s an entire different story) and I was really suicidal because of that. I literally had nothing to lose and that made recovery easier.
So my only focus was food, mealtimes and getting myself to a healthy weight. I achieved this goal in about 7/8 months and I didn't weigh myself once.
The reason why I was so committed was because of
A: food was a distraction from the pain.
B: I would stick my hand in a fire if that would’ve meant my pain got less bad.
C: I was so over this anorexic phase that I thought to myself: “I’m just going to get myself to a healthy weight and eat whatever the fuck I want. If I don’t like my new healthy body, I can always go back to my old habits.”
This thought might seem a bit controversial, but it helped me to keep going and I tell my clients to do the same. The reason why I’m saying this is because no one ever said “I preferred being a skeleton with restrictions and a dull life over having curves and doing whatever I want”.
Last thing I want to add is that I had a lyme disease relapse as well (hence the pain) so I still wanted to eat as unprocessed as possible to give my body the ability to do its thing. But I wouldn’t recommend this if you don't have a chronic illness.
So let’s go over what I generally ate in a day. I’ll repeat this over and over again. We’re all different as this is what I felt like.
Some highlights: I had a nut and nut butter obsession and I grazed all day, since my mental and physical hunger was through the roof.
I found a notepad where I wrote down what I ate.
Breakfast: 2 slices of gluten free oatbread with peanut butter and organic jelly + cappuccino with soy milk
Snack 1: 4 rice cakes with hummus and cucumber, a date-nut bar
Snack 2: a tompouce (it’s a Dutch pastry. Look it up. It was also my obsession)
Snack 3: an apple with fullfat quark and thick slice of homemade cake with sugar free whipped cream
Lunch: small salad with a whole avocado, seeds, nuts, olive oil, balsamic, an egg, sweet potato and two slices of bread. One with old goat cheese and the other with butter and jam.
4 pieces of lindt chocolade with sea salt
a whole mango + cappuccino
Snack 1: an entire pack of rice cakes with peanut butter, almond butter, hummus and smoked salmon (I used to see this as a binge, but I leaned it to my hunger and just ate and ate)
Snack 2: a whole bag of paprika flavoured chickpea crisps (I was still afraid of regular crisps)
Dinner: big plate buckwheat noodles with pb/soy sauce, veggies, chicken and crispy onions (I never weighed anything)
Snack 1: 4 plantains in the air fryer dipped in 4 tbsp. of different nut butters with cucumber
Snack 2: an apple, a kaki and 100 gram roasted nuts, half a bar of chocolate
Snack 3: 3 tbsp. of coconut butter (coconut manna) right out the jar
I also frequently woke up ravenous during the night. It’s totally normal for your body wanting a lot of food when it’s been starved for so long. On average I ate about 4.000 - 7.000 calories and sometimes I hit the 10.000. I never counted, but looking back I definitely hit that number once every few weeks.
I was still very much obsessed and focused on healthy foods, but I slowly learned that eating processed foods here and there wasn't going to kill me and absolutely didn't make me fat.
Giving in to your hunger is the scariest, yet most rewarding thing you can do for yourself. By doing this I achieved a healthy weight, got my period back (it’s super regular), my pain started to get less bad, my hair started growing back, I made new friends, went on dates, had dinner parties, started drinking alcohol responsively (and sometimes not so responsively hehe) and finally had my life back.
Why the hell did I wait so long? Something I was most surprised about was the following: after those 7/8 months I really started looking at my body in the mirror. I purposely avoided the mirror like the plague in the previous months, because that seemed to helped me.
Anyway, after those 7/8 months I was expecting to hate my new body and I tell you this with my hand on my heart: I loved it.
I was shocked.
I was even embarrassed to say it, because as a recently weight restored anorexic I shouldn't instantly love my body, should I?
Well, I did.
Obviously I’ve had my fair share of body image issues the last few years, since fluctuating is real and I gained some more weight. But that’s totally normal and part of life.
I’m going to end it here, but writing this process and looking back I can only tell you on thing.
JUST DO IT.
YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE
AND EVERYTHING TO GAIN.