These are not my words… I keep hearing this from clients in recovery from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. Because for many of us in recovery, eating ALL the foods brings in seriously high levels of cognitive dissonance.
Indeed, some of us were heavily committed to ‘clean’ eating (vegan/paleo/just restricting foods/counting calories/’managing our weight’/’being careful’). The longer we stuck to this type of dieting, the more likely we are to have internalised beliefs about some food groups being ‘bad’, ‘unhealthy’ or even ‘dangerous’.
The reality is: no foods are intrinsically good or bad.
One, because food has no moral value. Two, because our bodies are able to transform ANY food into energy, even the foods that have little nutritional value. Three, we know that our bodies are hardwired to seek pleasure from food. Feeling satisfied by what we eat is an essential way for our bodies to regulate hunger and fullness cues (and maintain a set point weight), but it is also important for our health as it is known to support the digestion process. So if the only credential of a chocolate bar is to that you feel good eating it, that’s still a win!
Our toxic nutritional beliefs are directly influenced by our society’s fatphobia
When we dig deeper, a lot of the issues at the heart of toxic nutritional beliefs (food is the enemy, food will make me fat, fat is bad, fat in my plate equals fat on my body) are directly related to how our culture sees food, bodies, weight and health. Media participate in establishing these beliefs.
When media write big headlines from pseudo-scientific research to reveal that the ‘obesity crisis’ is the plague of our era, they forget to mention that
1/ we still haven’t found a safe way for people to durably lower their body weight
2/ willpower is not enough to lose weight. There are direct and proven links between weight gain and chronic dieting, poverty, trauma, to name only a few
3/ members of their audience who are actually living in a larger body get a little more stigmatized every time a new article condemns their very first home – and this also has serious consequences on their health.
Nevertheless, we all grow increasingly convinced that our duty is to look for the ‘cleanest’ foods, the most ‘nutritional’ ingredients, the ‘healthiest’ choices. We get fearful of eating foods we love but have been told to demonize, to call ‘junk’, to avoid at all costs…
And the cycle continues…supported by a powerful ‘wellness’ industry making millions out of our insecurities. This mindset lies at the core of behaviours leading to Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.
HA is living proof that being obsessed with seeking better health can actually make us unhealthy.
The evidence is clear: a woman’s hypothalamus needs a DIVERSITY of foods to signal hormone production to other glands and organs. The restriction, the stress, the overexercising unlock the cascade of hormonal imbalances, not the chocolate bars. And they are a lot more damageable too, than chocolate bars, as they bring with them infertility, bone issues, heart issues, brain issues, can influence our body temperature, our moods, our libido, our ability to think straight and function optimally.
So, if you are in recovery right now, and struggling with finding your beliefs system turned on its head, keep in mind that the healthiest thing you can do at this time is to EAT all the foods (bar the ones you have been medically deemed allergic to, of course) in order to REPLENISH your starving body. Eating only ‘healthy’ foods is what you have been doing all along, and it did not in fact bring you better health, so recovering on these foods only – although it feels ‘safer’ to accommodate your anxiety – probably won’t cut it.
In recovery, your body needs all the fuel AND your mind needs all the reassurance that you will keep feeding it every type of food.
It is a rare instance of choosing quantity over quality (and – bear in mind – it is mostly impermanent). That is why we don’t believe there are ‘binges’ in recovery. Eating a lot is simply a way to finally feed that starving, exhausted body of yours.
I know it feels WILD to think this, and many of us appear like an anomaly among friends and family, but just as every one of us is truly unique, it is important to respond to your body’s needs to finally come out of ‘survival’ mode. And to find a supportive community around you.
As you recover and your body finally feels safe enough to cycle again, your eating patterns can and will absolutely stabilise.
It will be a second nature to trust your hunger and fullness cues, to allow yourself a treat occasionally, to enjoy foods that are deemed ‘nutritious’ alongside ones that are just ‘fun’. And nothing scary will happen to your weight, because our bodies are elaborate, smart machines that reach their best functioning when we trust them fully.
If you are eating everything in sight right now, know that you are doing exactly what you need to, and that this ‘out of control’ feeling is only temporary. Overtime, you will find the right balance but also a newfound sense of (true) health and freedom. Trust the process <3