I had the wonderful privilege of going on a girls' vacay this weekend. Over the years I have made some amazing friends hanging out with the moms of my daughter's playdates. These ladies "get me" on a level a lot of people don't: we share similar challenges and struggles, are in a similar place in life- we just get each other. Once a year we go on a "Mom's Trip" that never disappoints!
On the car ride down to the Central Coast of Cali, we shared many stories. But at one point I realized that we all shared one story in common: a life riddled with disordered eating. Each and every one of us- and now that I think of it 99% of my female clients- are struggling with the same issue: we got messed up about food early in life and it still haunts us.
Think about it: do you know any woman over the age of 40 who doesn't obsess about food: where she'll get it; how much to eat; when the next meal will be; did she eat too much; is she fat; is she skinny??? How is it possible that a whole generation of women got so completely F'd up about food?!
Whether it involves starving oneself or seemingly always eating- it's still disordered. It doesn't matter if she (or he or they) are 90 lbs or 490 lbs. If food rules their thinking, it's a serious problem.
Since we all met because of our kids, we have daughters about the same age. And we are all terrified that our daughters might someday deal with disordered eating themselves. How do we model for them what we already struggle with? How do we coach them to make healthy food choices without giving them a complex? It's not easy and kind of scary actually. I would do anything for my daughter to NEVER feel the horrible way I felt about my body when I was younger.
The three of us each had eating disorders that started in our late teens and progressed into our early twenties. And while we are all very healthy, smart, and successful women, those eating disorders will always be part of our lives.
Even if we can silence the ghoulish voices that once dominated our thinking, every once in a while (especially in times of severe stress), that darn ghoul comes back with ferocity.
It seems to me that people think you can "get over" an eating disorder. Once it has its grip on you, it becomes part of you. It's always there. And yes, you can eat well, have a healthy body, and even stop obsessing about food all day every day. But it is always with you. All 3 of us agreed that those old feelings of self-loathing and body dysmorphia never go away. I believe that an eating disorder changes your brain permanently. That doesn't mean you can't get it back online again, but does mean that you can never be 100% over it.
So what can we do to not only keep the ghoul hidden, but help prevent our daughters from ending up just like us?
Get rid of screens when eating! The absolute number one thing you can do. No TV, no phone, no ipad, nada. See you food, smell it, taste it. Maybe have some music on, or engage in conversation with others, but get off the devices! You'll register fullness and (more importantly) satisfaction sooner.
Don't eat empty calories, and certainly don't drink them! When I have people who are seriously underweight and need to put on pounds, there's one trick that always works: drink empty calories. When you don't have to chew, the body doesn't really register the intake. And honestly, any empty calories (crackers, cereal, pasta, bread, etc) are devoid of nutrients and will get you on a sugar rollercoaster. That means as soon as that starch/sugar load leaves your system, the ghoul will be back craving MORE.
Move every day. It doesn't have to be exercise; but you need to move your whole body. Walk, swim, cycle, dance, whatever. The circulation will help your moods stabilize and can even give you a boost. Plus, when your body is really huffing and puffing, it shuts down digestion and can help you stop thinking about food for a while.
Don't be afraid of fat. We need a different word for fat in our food- because it DOES NOT make you FAT!! Fatty foods like avocado, fish, eggs, whole milk dairy, olives and nuts make you satisfied and are extremely nutritious. Swap out low/no fat dairy for the real deal. Sprinkle some coconut on your yogurt. Put an extra dollop of guac on your taco. You'll get full faster and feel satisfied longer!
Get full. Some people have this stigma about getting full: like it's not ladylike, or it's gross. No, it's what humans are supposed to do. Get full enough (not lay on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner full) to be able to step away from the plate and not need one more bite. By getting full you'll ward off snacking and pecking and will be able to enjoy meals!
Those 5 things are a daily constant for me. Sometimes I falter, and sure enough, the ghoul comes back to haunt me. As I get a little older and (hopefully) wiser, it does get easier for me to realize when things are going off the rails. The gaps are tighter on how long I let it stay off the rails too. I will never forget that dark period of my life. We have to go through those times to appreciate the beauty of our lives today. If you know someone who could benefit from reading this, please share. If you'd like to comment below, or want to reach out to me privately, please do!!
~Yours in health,