As a part of my recovery from my eating disorder, I see a dietician on a weekly basis. I have been seeing mine now for just about 3 years now. Every week we have lunch together for our appointment. We have been doing this since nearly the beginning. Over that time, we have been able to increase the variety of food I eat and try new food while receiving some much needed meal support.
This week she asked me what has been the most helpful about our meals together, what I have accomplished, and what are still my goals overall. Whew! Big questions! It has taken me a few days, but I think I have some ideas and I want to share some of them with you.
So what has been the most helpful? One of the biggest things is the meal support. Each week with each meal we are working on creating a positive experience with food whether it is a “safe” food or not-so-“safe” food. Not only has it increased my variety of foods, which is potentially associated with more positive outcomes in recovery (En Route to R.D. Land), but also made meals all around easier to do. Practice makes perfect!
Another aspect of meal support is that it has helped in teaching me how to eat when I am upset, which has always been impossible for me to do. It is the repeated practice of eating a meal regardless of emotions, changing the tone of my mealtime (my favorite is listening to Mumford and Sons), and avoiding too challenging of a meal depending on how upset I am. It is one more way to take good self-care of myself.
Even when we are not working on challenging foods or situations, we are still practicing important skills. For example, every few weeks or so we go out for sushi at a sushi bar that has a line of plates that circles the room just like in Japan. (This is how we roll in Seattle.) While sushi is one of the easiest meals for me, the challenge in this meal is knowing when to stop and listening to my internal cues. It is a safe environment with safe food to practice being able to be in a family-style or buffet restaurant in the future, which is one of my goals.
My accomplishments so far are pretty epic. I am eating foods that I have loved my whole life once again. I can eat more freely than I have in years. More and more frequently I can allow myself to have what I want to have and allow myself a treat if I want because it is okay. The best part? Each week is an improvement from the last or at least a learning experience to help in the future.
And what of the future? There are still foods to work on. I have a list of specific foods and types of foods that I would like to feel more safe about. There are also challenges I want to do such as be able to go to a family-style or buffet restaurant. Another challenge I want to accomplish is being able to cook for myself, which has the added challenge of my OCD of germs/contamination to contend with. That challenge requires work with my RD and my therapist as I work simultaneously on my eating disorder and my OCD since the two go hand-in-hand.
I am truly grateful that I am able to do this work with such a wonderful dietician. Our work week-in and week-out has been invaluable to my recovery. It is wonderful to look back over the past few years and be able to look at all the meals and fear-foods I have conquered.
I pose these questions to you: What are your goals if you are in recovery? What have you accomplished so far? Try writing some of it out and see what you come up with. Remind yourself as much as you can about how far you have come. No matter where you are in recovery, you have accomplishments, so be proud! And, if you are so adventurous, maybe even share them with your dietician.