Recovery diaries #3 Eating by the clock

At the depths of my struggles with food, I would put off eating for as long as possible during the day. I would wait until I was literally starving, belly growling before each meal or snack. At first I felt ok and lost quite a bit of weight but of course it wasn’t a sustainable way to live. After a while my body started to fight back. Often, when I finally did give myself permission to eat I would eat till waaaayyy past satiation to the point of being uncomfortable and even in pain. At the time I saw this as a lack of control, being greedy and a problem to keep secret and overcome by myself. Now I can see that it was only a natural survival response and a huge flashing warning sign that something wasn’t right!

I remember coming across this hunger scale a while back and realising that I really need to change things.

hunger-scale

Instead of hovering around the ideal zone and listening to my body’s gentle hunger and fullness signals I was swinging wildly from level 1 to level 10 on a daily basis. Even when started to eat a healthy amount and gained weight eating this way, my cycles never returned. Now I understand the importance of consistency with HA recovery. For our bodies to feel safe again and trust that there is enough energy available for “unnecessary” functions such as menstruation, we need to feed them sufficiently and reliably.

Even though I know all of this, a habit that I am finding very hard to un-learn is eating by the clock. Not in the sense of eating at fixed times every day, but more deciding how long after a meal it was OK to eat again. Now I am trying to get back in tune with my body, I am finding it hard to totally let go and trust my body’s signals. I am not even sure if I am aware of them half of the time, never mind listening to them.. If I get hungry a couple of hours after a meal, the first thing that pops into my head is

“I can’t be hungry I just ate!!”

The magic number for me seems to be 3 hours. I don’t know where along the line I decided that but my mind expects a meal to last that long and if I get hungry before then I will question it. The thing is, as long as we don’t have natural cycles, our bodies are going to demand more food. I need to keep reminding myself of this! Every time I delay eating because “it hasn’t been long enough yet” I am reinforcing those restrictive thought patterns in my brain. It is something that has been there so long it has woven itself into the fabric of my daily life and it is super hard to unpick!

I am definitely making progress as now, even though I still have those thoughts, I choose to act otherwise and do what I know is right for my body. Every time I do this I am strengthening new, positive thought patterns which will help me to recover. I am trying to honour my hunger signals and eat whenever and whatever I feel like eating. I know that sometimes this means eating out of boredom or emotional eating rather than true hunger but right now that is something that I am happy to accept as part of a normal, healthy relationship to food. I am hoping that eventually I will get to the point where it is as simple as feeling hungry and eating. No thinking back to my last meal. No wondering if I can hold out till my next meal. Just eating!

What determines when you should eat – your brain or your body? Are you struggling to let of self-imposed rules about when to eat? Let me know in the comments 🙂 

Amy x

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