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Developing Healthy Eating Habits Is Possible: Check Out These Ideas


Is it possible to develop healthy eating habits and feel good about them when you have an eating disorder? The only real answer is that anything is possible.

The path to healthier eating is a bit different for everyone, but the path is there. It can be hidden by feelings and beliefs about our self and our place in the world as well as our need to manage those feelings and beliefs through food. Still, a way is always there.

In this article are a few thoughts or ideas about developing healthy eating habits. They are offered by an experienced mental health counselor who struggled with symptoms of anorexia as a young adult and still lives in their shadow. They are ideas to consider and may be of help to you, or not.

Developing Healthy Eating Habits

Rethink Fat and Food

One of the best ways to prevent an accumulation of fat in the body is to eat a nutritious diet that supplies adequate calories. Foods that are good for the body do not promote unnecessary weight gain or cause our body to store fat, while being in a starvation mode triggers the body to horde fat. Plus, some of the weight gained by eating well is lean muscle and that does not add bulk to our appearance.

Choose a Different Kind of Control

Initially, by starving, purging, binging, or putting unhealthy restrictions on what we consume, we are exercising control or filling an emotional void. This satisfies something in us. However, if we continue with these eating behaviors we end up losing control. The eating disorder runs away with us and emotionally we are as empty or miserable as ever, or more so.

Eating a healthy diet is a choice that also requires the exercise of control. The control is not to avoid something but to stay in balance, and balance is not about perfection. To eat a balanced, nutritious diet means exercising control by making adjustments so that the diet is not perfect, just overall healthier than not.

Think of the control a tightrope walker must use to prevent themselves from falling. A person can stay on a high rope or wire by clinging to it and going nowhere, or make constant adjustments to keep walking. Living with balance is an art, an accomplishment to be proud of.

Think Small

If you have an eating disorder and suddenly decide to eat healthy, part of your brain will anticipate change and send danger signals. It is more effective to make changes by taking steps that are so small the fight or flight mechanism in our body does not even notice.

For instance, a recovering anorexic client named Selene decided to eat a few almonds, maybe five or six, every day. She said, “I chewed each one like at least 30 times so they practically disappeared in my mouth.” Selene did this for a few weeks and then discovered she could eat twice that many and be OK with it.

Then, Selene decided to have a piece of whole grain bread thinly spread with peanut butter for lunch. That proved to be too much; it triggered Selene’s anorexia. So, she started with a quarter slice of whole grain bread topped with a bit of peanut butter, and found that to be doable.

Taking small steps is a slow, tortoise-like process, but it helps build good, solid habits without triggering anxiety.