Important Tips For Anorexia Recovery Meal Plans
The question here is "should I follow a meal plan during recovery?"
MENTAL vs. PHYSICAL HUNGER
Deep in my recovery I would go on calorie counting websites to see my own personalized plan. I was obsessed with how much I should/shouldn't be eating. But yet, I was still thinking about food all the time, even though I apparently was eating 'enough' according to these sites. You fill in your activity levels, body measurements and gender... so they should be accurate, right? Well physical hunger and mental hunger play a huge role in this. If your always craving food and thinking about your next meal, maybe even setting time frames between meal times, you are not listening to your body's hunger cues. Your mental hunger is a sign to you that your body is starving and you need more food. These calculators are not meant for you, they should not be your base as to how much food you need. In anorexia you have malnourished your body so much of calories that it actually takes double the amount of food, than another individual who isn't anorexic, to gain weight and fulfill these cravings.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
Set yourself a small meal plan or caloric goal, either with the help of professionals or through extensive research - whichever makes the most sense to you. A dietitian would likely play a huge role in helping you, and will support you along the way. Having a professional also ensures that the process is creating good results.
This 'goal' would be your minimum intake of food for EACH day. You are to eat no less than this, but, eating above this minimum is actually perfect, and recommended. If you eat above, you will learn and feel that your body is starving, and listening to hunger cues will get easier with time. Additionally to this, it is important to listen to your body in order to eat enough calories. On the days you don't feel that hungry, you are still to eat the minimum meal plan. Don't cheat recovery and eat less on one day to make up for a previous day, where you may have felt guilty for going 'over'. You will experience extreme hunger shortly after increasing your calories. The important thing to remember is no matter what, you need to keep eating. If you eat below your meal plan, the next day you will think you have to eat that smaller amount again or less, and this is what you NEED to avoid.
TRY TO AVOID A LOT OF VOLUME FOODS
You may think your eating more because your putting extra fruit into your cereal or extra vegetables in a pasta dish at dinner. This is only playing a trick on your mind. Instead you should be adding more cereal to your bowl, or more pasta on your plate at dinner. You need to be eating more calorie dense foods over nutrient dense. Though it is important to still get fresh fruits and vegetables in, don't make it them the meal. Add them to the side as an additional part of a high calorie meal.
"I AM GOING TO GET FAT"
Your body is going to feel like it can eat so much and you may think it will always be like that. This is going to be a scary feeling. But, your body is TELLING you it NEEDS the food. Eventually your body is going to get out of this deficit and the cravings will slowly come to an end. You are not limited to any food groups. Learn to eat unrestricted, and continue this through life. If you believe, feel or question that eventually you will not need to eat unrestricted, you have not yet come out from a deficit. Unrestricted and intuitive eating is going to keep your body, nutrition and energy balanced as you recover and continue your journey of being ED free in life. Of course it is important to nourish your body with whole foods, but there should never be a huge burden of emotion upon you if you eat cake, pizza or question having a bowl of cereal or pasta.
Increasing calories will create uncomfortable feelings. The truth? You will feel bloated, anger, sad, full, and some days the hunger will be less than others. Remember though, that through this, you are healing and with time the feelings of discomfort will pass. So, keep going angel.