Meal Plan for Eating Disorder Recovery

Breakfast  
Thick sourdough bread slathered in real butter and strawberry preserves. Whole milk blended up with protein powder and almond butter. This is my Monday morning breakfast. This meal plan follows the diet from the keto pure diet | stylish magazine.

Wait a minute, gluten-filled bread? Real butter and whole milk? Blasphemy! This is a gluten –free and dairy-free blog, right?

That time has passed. I am welcoming in all the foods. No restrictions.

I have battled an eating disorder for ten years. Evidence of that is written all over this blog. My eating disorder is why I started  cooking, I knew i want to get better and last fall I recommitted to weekly therapy sessions with an ED (eating disorder) specialist, and I began to cook. I described Sparkle Kitchen in our first meeting the fog began to lift. My special protocols and elimination diets were blatantly feeding my disease.  


Snack  
Cheddar cubes and raw carrots. 10am snack.

My therapist recommends using the following guideline to avoid any ED triggers:

Breakfast
Snack
Lunch
Snack
Dinner
Snack

I was intermittent fasting when I met my current therapist. And I was spiraling into daily panic attacks and binging to calm myself. It wasn’t pretty. Any type of restrictive diet sets my eating disorder in motion so the daily meal guide above allows me to feel safe; safety in knowing that another meal is in sight and I don’t have to compensate for eating more or less.


Lunch
Salmon sushi with a mixed greens salad.

Sometimes food isn’t the solution.  I believed eating the most nourishing foods would cure my ailments. All the pain and discomfort of a leaky gut would resolve itself if I just followed the right diet.

Diet can help if you know what your body needs. But I didn’t know, I was merely guessing.  

I enlisted the help of a nutritional biochemist to run a full panel of testing. The results were more or less expected. Minor case of leaky gut, no gluten sensitivity, a bit of candida overgrowth, very low zinc levels and my thyroid T3 and T4 hormones were in the functionally low range.

Three years of sardines, organ meats, coconut oil, seaweed and bone broth and I still had these issues.

The nutritional biochemist suggested a series of supplements over a three-month period. No custom diet. I eat anything and everything.

My therapist explained how denying certain foods can put your body in shock when it does encounter a “forbidden” treat. Whether this is founded in science I’m uncertain, but I can definitely attest to the placebo effect. Sugar is/was my trigger food and every time I indulged I would feel awful, full blown sugar hangover. Ninety percent of that is/was guilt. Guilt of putting a “no” food into my body and the possibility of it impacting my weight.


Snack
Plain yogurt and banana. Or chocolate chips stirred into crunchy peanut butter.


Dinner
Sautéed bok choy, chicken burger.

I spent a week in the hospital in college. The result was misdiagnosed Crohn’s disease.

I’d suffered from severe abdominal pain since both my parents remarried at age ten. At the time, no one thought to correlate the two and I traveled from doctor to doctor for years with no accurate diagnosis.

Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies, taking shape in a myriad of ailments. Mine rooted in my bowels.  I didn’t have the necessary tools to process my stress as a child so my body responded the only way it knew how, stomach pain. While I suppressed the emotional pains of my life, my abdomen did the screaming instead.


Snack
Glass of milk and a bit of dark chocolate.

Improv comedy has the “Yes, and…” rule of thumb that I’ve incorporated into my eating philosophy.  I say “yes” to all the foods. And add a scoop of ice cream to my slice of pie.

Losing My Teeth Before 30

I walk into the dentist for my regularly scheduled cleaning. Two years had passed since my last visit. My teeth felt healthy and pain-free. After a routine brushing, flossing and probing, the dentist looks at me with deep concern. “I want you to see a periodontist. You may need surgery.”

Surprised and confused, I leave the office with a clean mouth and a head full of worry.

The periodontist shared my results very matter-of-factly. “You have 40 percent bone loss in your lower teeth.” Okay, and that means? He went on to explain that my teeth were losing bone around the root, where the tooth anchors into my mouth. If it continues, the teeth will detach from the root and fall out.

Fall out. As in lose forever. Never to grow back. Toothless at 28.

How exactly did this happen to me? I was healthy, I flossed daily and always brushed my teeth. What could have gone wrong?

I began to question everything about my health. It became an obsession to understand why my bones were deteriorating. I read dozens of nutrition books, learned more about anatomy and physiology and researched methods for building bone density.

During this time I had also just begun weekly therapy for an eating disorder. I’d battled bulimia for ten years and was finally ready to get help. I shared the teeth discovery with my therapist. She listened, then asked why I thought this happened. At the time I blamed my years eating a vegan diet. It seemed logical to me that the lack of proper nutrients resulted in my teeth dilemma. She left it at that and therapy continued for six more months. 

As the months passed, I learned more about bone loss as well as the health consequences of bulimia. Bone loss can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from difficulty absorbing nutrients in autoimmune diseases to taking certain medications for cancer treatment to damages from eating disorders. Generally something is interfering with calcium and vitamin D absorption.

I was quick to discredit the link to bulimia. It had already caused so much suffering that I could not fathom another consequence. I continued to solely blame my past dietary choices for the bone loss.

Near the end of my therapy intensive, we circled back to my teeth. The notion that it could be tied to bulimia was nagging me. I shared my doubts about the link to bulimia and my therapist challenged, “I think the bulimia is the culprit, it is commonly seen with this disease.”

Finally it sank in. Bulimia caused my tooth deterioration. I accepted it. The concentration on my lower teeth was a clear indication. Years of purging allowed harsh stomach acid to flood my mouth and be in regular contact with that area, slowly corroding my teeth. 

Bulimia Physical Effects:
►Irritated digestive system
Bloating, abdominal pain
Lack of vitamin and mineral absorption leading to malnourishment
Teeth deterioration
Sore throat, indigestion, heartburn and reflux
Inflammation & rupture of the oesophagus
Electrolyte imbalance resulting in cardiac arrhythmia, muscle fatigue and cramps
Stomach & intestinal ulcers
Irregular or slow heart beat
Heart failure

The list only includes physical side effects and does not go into the just as damaging emotional health impacts.

28 and toothless. That’s the story I have to tell. It’s been two years since I received the bad news and I now have a reverse braces contraption in my mouth holding down my bottom teeth. The teeth I’ll eventually lose. Honestly, a tooth could fall out any day.

Yes I’ve accepted it and own my mistakes and continue to do the work to ensure further damage is not done. But I’ll never get my teeth back.

 

Resources:
Bulimia: Caring for your Teeth, http://eating-disorders.org.uk/information/caring-for-your-teeth/

Physical Effects: Bulimia, https://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/eating-disorders/bulimia-nervosa/physical-effects

Self-Care Tips for Traveling

Spring break is over and signs of the new season are popping from the Earth. Bits of green grass and flowers are persevering over the lingering cool weather. The sun is lengthening the days. And my body is going through adjustments. After a bitterly cold winter and traveling throughout March there is much I want to shed before stepping into the new season.

The cold drove me indoors more than I like, leading to less socializing and the travel has left me depleted. Between juggling time differences, healing from the flu, shocking my system with new foods and changes in weather, I’m ready to embrace spring and a new routine.

I’m incredibly grateful for the past month’s travel experiences. Beginning with explorations across Italy with my sister and ending with discoveries in urban and rural Malaysia, I learned a great deal about the world and I’m excited to share all that I observed. This means making time to record the journey, scheduling dedicated writing time, getting into a work flow that speaks to my energy levels and learning how to manage the anxiety that comes with wanting to share it all at once.

The past few days I’ve pondered what to share first. And I keep coming back to the stress of traveling. Travel is a beautiful gift. To have the opportunity to practice world citizenship should not be taken for granted or bemoaned. That being said, travel does present certain stressors on health. For me that includes, motion sickness, worry over available foods, mistakenly eating an  allergenic food, irregular sleep schedule, constipation and triggering my eating disorder. Recognizing this list helped me prepare for all the situations.

Issue: Motion Sickness

Solution: Mostly due to recycled air and lack of sunlight on the flights, I try to sit in a window seat so I can sneak peaks of light when I need it. Eating ginger chews and drinking ginger tea both helped to calm my nausea and distract from the queasy feeling.

Issue: Worry over available foods

Solution: Airlines are accommodating to dietary restrictions. They have vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, egg-free, kosher, gluten-free and other options depending on the airline. I selected the gluten-free meal and was impressed with the offering. The foods were mostly rice-based and less vegetables than I typically eat but not bad for an airline meal. The best option is to pack your own meals and bring snacks. I brought a sardine salad for dinner and sweet potato mash for breakfast in throw-away containers on the flight to Italy. The return flight is where I had to get creative. I still had packed sardines and a few other snacks to supplement the provided airline meals.

Issue: Mistakenly eating an allergenic food

Solution: Always have an EpiPen if you have a severe allergy. If it’s more of an intolerance then drinking lots of water and supplementing with l-glutamine help.

Issue: Irregular Sleep Schedule

Solution: Both of my outbound flights were overnight so my regular sleep schedule told me to sleep as soon as I boarded the plane. It was smooth sailing on my flight to Italy and I was out for six straight hours. An eye mask, ear plugs, neck pillow and blanket contributed to the sleep success. Unfortunately I was more restless on the flight to Malaysia. When we arrived to our layover destination, my energy had hit rock bottom. Then we discovered the coolest offering at the airport, a full service spa with gym, lap pool and relaxation lounge. I booked myself a massage then parked myself in the lounge for a few hours of sleep before our next flight. Many international airports offer comfortable reclining seats for rest during layovers and spas are becoming popular as well.

Issue: Constipation

Solution: Whenever my routine is altered, my digestive system is the first to notice. I use a few tricks to alleviate these symptoms and get things moving again. Hydration is priority. I start upping my water intake a full week before planned travel. Taking breaks for movement helps as well. I’ll do squats and certain yoga poses in the bathroom or back of the aisle, anything to get my body out of the seated posture. 

Layovers are helpful ways to get in exercise too. Some airports have gyms and there is even a yoga room in the San Francisco airport that I love. But really walking is all you need and most   concourses are long enough. If you have the time, find a spa and schedule a massage.

Issue: Triggering my eating disorder.

Solution: The importance of scheduled meals is the first thing I learned from my eating disorder therapist. When you’re on a path of breaking poor habits in exchange for healthy behavior it’s critical to have a set routine. I’ve been married to this principle ever since. To maintain a healthy relationship with food I need regularly scheduled breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Once I deviate from this it’s challenging to right the path.

During the flights I was bombarded with food. The airlines have determined that the best way to pass the time on lengthy flights and keep customers happy is to keep the food flowing. To deter myself from falling into dangerous food patterns I set a meal timer. When the timer beeped I knew it was time for the next meal. I set the timer for every five to six hours. I knew that if I ate enough food at each meal I would not be hungry or tempted to snack in between. And it worked. I was able to stick with my regimen and not have food regrets. 

Self-Care Tips for Traveling

It has been almost been a year since I accepted my eating disorder and sought progressional help to begin the healing. I’ve learned that I’ll always be mending my distorted relationship with food and that’s okay. Acceptance and therapy have given me the tools to manage it. Travel is just one of the challenges I face and with these solutions I’m a healthier woman.

What helps you practice self-care when traveling?