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Meal Plan vs. Eating Disorder

Last week, when I decided to start writing again, I was not eating my full meal plan. A meal plan is a set amount of food I need to eat in a day decided on by my nutritionist. It is made up of three components: Carbohydrates, protein, and Endurance Fuels (the non-triggering way my center calls fats). I have a range of each component I have to get in each meal and snack. There is some flexibility. For example, if I have to have 3 carbohydrates with lunch and 3 at dinner and my lunch ends up with 4 carbohydrates, then I can have 2 at dinner. Either way, I am getting the full amount for the day. It sounds complicated, but it's not, especially after 11 years.

Anyway, beginning about three weeks ago I began restricting my food (eating less than my meal plan on purpose). I told on myself to my therapist, as I always do, and she asked me how motivated I was to get back to following my meal plan. When she first asked me that at the beginning of our session, I honestly didn't know. I really didn't feel like making a conscious effort to follow my meal plan. I was enjoying the restriction. My body image was improving, even though I knew that it was just a trick my ED was playing on me. It was a way to encourage me to continue with my destructive behaviors. In that moment I really didn't see a reason to stop what I was doing.

As the session went on we talked about lots of different things. I am lucky to have an amazing therapist that can read me like a book. She can tell by looking in my eyes and reading my body language when I don't have the mental clarity to discuss certain things. She has told me before she can visibly tell when ED is in charge. I must have had that look last week because she changed the subject from meal plan to our animals and things we are doing during this time at home to occupy our time. After I relaxed a little from our casual small talk she circled back to the topic of meal plan. She asked me again if I was motivated to get back on track. I was more present in the conversation this time around, but I still didn't know my answer to her question. When I shrugged she gave me some things to consider if I didn't choose to go back to my meal plan.

1. What quality of life did I want when we emerge on the other side of this Pandemic? Do I want to be frail and have no energy? Or do I want to be ready to jump right back into life and friendships?

2. Do I want to continue to damage my body and risk serious health complications? I made it through the worst of my illness with digestive tract issues, but nothing worse. Going back down the road of restriction could lead to more serious issues such as cardiac complications.

3. Do I want to spend more time in intensive treatment? If I walked down the slippery slope of restriction then I would eventually reach a point where I would need a higher level of care than just her outpatient sessions could provide.

She got me.

I have worked really hard over the last 11 years to get where I am today. I worked so hard to get my college degree. I love my job. I love my family, friends, and boyfriend. I love my life! All things that I love in my life would change if I didn't make the decision to get back to meal plan. My performance at work would suffer. I wouldn't have the energy to put into going back to school for my masters degree. I wouldn't be as good of a friend, family member, or girlfriend. All simply because I wouldn't have the energy to. My life would go back to getting through the day doing the bare minimum and going home to sleep. That's it! My answer to her question now was a confident Yes. I am motivated to get back to meal plan.

Together we made a plan. First, I would need to tell my boyfriend I was struggling and would need his support and help keeping me accountable. Second, I would need to reach out to my support system and let them know that I am having a hard time and may need them to check in. Three, I would need to review my meal plan and get creative with how I was going to meet it.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't take steps one and two until the following day. Even though I knew getting back on meal plan was the right thing to do, it was still a lot to process. I needed to give myself the time to accept that I was no longer going to allow myself to restrict. I also needed to work up the courage to tell on myself to my loved ones. Telling my therapist is one thing. but my loved ones is another. I always get this fear of letting them down. I don't want them to think "Oh here we go again." Or, "It's been 11 years, why are we still doing this?" Again, another ED trick. My family and friends have NEVER made me feel guilty or bad for having relapses. For that I am extremely blessed and grateful. All that matters is that I did tell on myself. Contrary to my fear, I was met with love, support, and "how can I help"s.

Now the hard part, actually following my meal plan. We were running low on some things at home, so I put in a grocery order. In this order I made sure to add Boost nutrition drinks. These are used in treatment when you don't eat all your solid food. I used to view them as a punishment or something to feel shame over, but now they are my life saver! When I feel like I honestly can't eat something solid but still have meal plan left, I gulp down one of those bad boys. The order also have things to make smoothies from home. Again, another safer option. When I say safe, I mean that it doesn't trigger me to have anxiety or feel bad over consuming it. I can explain safe foods another day.

So here we are, almost one week from deciding to go back on my meal plan. It was a rough start. Day one was physically painful. Refeeding your body after restricting is not comfortable! It's a bit of a shock to the system. That only lasted a day or two. Now, things are physically feeling better. Mentally we are getting there. I am continuing to take it one meal at a time and one day at a time.

I hope everyone is doing well. This is a really strange time in all of our lives and we all need each other more than ever. Check on your friends, even if they appear to have it together.

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<3 Stay Strong and Beautiful!

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