Two days ago I opened up about my struggles with sticking to my meal plan, and the important realisations I had come to, in acknowledging the fact that despite the fact that yes, I have successfully gained weight and reached a much healthier bmi... it is still absolutely crucial that I continue to both nourish and care for my body; as there is still a significant amount of work to be done in terms of both my physical and mental recovery. Today I thought I would write a little about how I plan to tackle this problem and get myself back on track. I hope that by sharing my advice and thoughts on this,I wil be able to help anyone else who is finding it hard to keep to their meal plan or just finding recovery and eating enough challenging in general.
So...how to do it?
In this sort of situation (ie. you are not following your meal plan) there are a number of different scenarios which might apply to you.
- You have, after having followed your meal plan well for some time, suddenly feel a strong reluctance to do so any more, and am considering on missing out on "something" tomorrow, say.
- You have gradually started to cheat on your meal plan but you think it's okay because you're only missing out on a few small things a day
- You are cheating on your meal plan and you are very much aware of the fact that you are deliberately missing out on a number of things during the day
- You are not following your meal plan at all.
If you are like me and are sort of at the third stage of "cheating on your meal plan", or are purposely choosing not to follow it at all...then you are also at an equally important crossroads in terms of your recovery...and as in the previous situation, it is so, so important that you get yourself back on track as soon as possible.
But the question is, of course, is how to do just that. Its not a matter of waking up in the morning thinking to yourself, "I didnt follow my meal plan yesterday. But tomorrow I am going to, I will follow it 100% tomorrow." No, no and no!! One thing I have learnt in ED recovery is that putting things off is NOT a good idea. Because if you put something off till tomorrow say, and then tomorrow comes around and then you wil more than likely feel overwhelmed and think, no actually, I'm not ready, Im going to do it tomorrow, not today. And you will just keep on putting it off, again and again and again, and you won't make any positive changes whatsoever.
I am very much guilty of doing this, too - I put my hands up right now and confess, yep, I do that and it's something i myself am trying my best to work on.
If you find that after a period of not following your meal plan and you have been missing out on a significant amount of items on it, the best advice I could give you is to ease yourself back into the routine of following it SLOWLY so you don't become too overwhelmed!! This is what I am currently doing at the moment as I strive to get myself back on track. I'll explain more about this in detail in Part 3 of this post.
Here are some other tips which might help you to keep to, or get back into following, your meal plan. I'm going to try and use these myself over the next few weeks so it felt good to get them down onto paper...
- Tell a friend or a family member what it is exactly you are struggling with right now. Whether it be meals, missing out on snacks, not finishing stuff or anything. You don't need to give them the whole picture if you don't want to. Just explain that you are finding this certain thing hard, and you really need their support right now to get you back on track.
- Always try to eat with others. For example always try to eat your meals together if you are living with someone.
- This might seem silly advice but I use this technique sometimes and I actually find that it really helps! When you feel as if you are about to do something which is wrong in regards to the meal plan, just stop and take a deep long breath and think of an image of a loved one or a dear friend in your mind. Then think...what would they say if they knew what you were doing? what would they feel? Would they be upset, disappointed, angry, sad? I always try to think like this - I often think of how I will be letting my readers down if I cheat and this helps to keep me on track. Or I make up an image in my head of someone I deeply care about, try and imagine their voice in my head, urging me to eat and follow my meal plan.
- Talk back to your Ed. If the ED Voice says, for example, "Dont have that toast, just throw it in the bin" you can say back to it, "No. I will eat my toast and not throw it away. Firstly, because this food is going to help me get better...by eating it I am defying you, a Voice that is trying to control and harm me. And throwing food away is wasteful. I am not going to listen to you." (I dont' want people to think I am encouraging swearing or anything, But anyway, I dont know if this is helpful to anyone but I often finish off my ED conversation with a defiant "F*** you, ED!!" I just find it helps me to vent out some of my anger at it and make me feel that one bit better. :p
- Repeat mantras or helpful quotes in your head whenever you feel overwhelmed or anxious.
- If you feel a strong urge to restrict (or engage in any other kind of behaviour) I always think calling a friend or someone who cares really helps. Even if someone is not actually there with you, just hearing a caring voice and having someone to listen to you is such a massive help and comfort in itself.
- Distract while you eat, to keep your mind busy and off the intrusive ED thoughts. Have a conversation with someone, ideally. Watch TV or read recovery blogs!
- Buy foods which you like and enjoy and are likely to eat! It's no good trying to force yourself to eat foods you dislike as this willl just make things ten times harder and will more than likely make you want to just skip stuff even more.
- hang up the meal plan somewhere you(and, if you are living with family/friends etc,), can see it. On your wall, noticeboard, fridge, diary, wherever. Somewhere where you will be constantly reminded of what you should be having.
- Pick a nice little notebook (here's my own one, I think its very cute :)) to be your food diary - Every morning or perhaps the evening before, plan out what you are going to eat that day, with little tickboxes beside each item which you can tick off when you've had it. I always find its a good idea to decide what you are having beforehand, as from experience when I can't decide I end up dithering for ages and oftentimes ended up not having anything.