Can People With Eating Disorders Ever Have Healthy Relationships With Food?

Can people with eating disorders ever have healthy relationships with food? It is possible for someone who has received treatment from an eating disorder to learn about the healthy ways to eat. It's possible....

It's possible. Let's define healthy relationship with food. In my experience, if someone enters with alcohol recovery, they can have a more normal relationship with eating and their body. They can make peace with food and their weight, but they need to be vigilant in the sense like a diabetic needs to be careful about what they eat and getting adequate exercise and managing stress. It is very similar to diabetes in the sense that if you watch it and take care of yourself you can stay in recovery. However, can one throw caution to the wind as if they have never had an eating disorder, then my bias is no. It is a little different than an alcoholic because in my opinion very few alcoholics can ever drink again. For example, once you become a pickle there is no going back to becoming a cucumber again. So if you are a pickle, you stay a pickle. In your eating disorder it's possible if you are anorectic and it's a phase then you cannot come out of it like a light switch and all of a sudden it is not there but that's the exception to the rule. I think most people with eating disorders have to struggle with a life long issue of body image. It may not be as intense or frequent or debilitating as it was when they were in the midst of their active eating disorder but its still stays with them to one degree or another. For the most part I think they need to be vigilant in terms of being on guard and for stepping backwards into the eating disorder. Someone with a history of anorexia would do well to not go on a diet. Someone with a history of bulimia would do well not to make a habit of going to deface or overeating and someone with a history of compulsive overeating likewise would do well to be careful. We have an acronym that I use in treatment and I will tell you what it is. It is called SERF and this is what it stands for Spirituality Exercise Rest and Food Plan. If someone is practicing that on a regular basis they can stay recovered from an eating disorder and not relapse. As a matter of fact, I would say that would apply to diabetes and most illnesses. The spirituality peace is not to be confused with religion. There is no set definition of that other than cultivating a faith or belief in something other than just you. It could be a God of your understanding. It could be a support group like AA or OA. It could be following some principles of just being a good human being such as doing for others without expecting something back. Pretty much people know what spirituality is, but they need to cultivate and practice it in their own way and have their own definition of it. The big piece of SERF is the exercise and it really means not over exercising or under exercising but doing moderate exercise on a consistent basis. Rest means getting enough sleep but also it means not burning the candle at both ends, not over doing or under doing. With the food plan, we prepare a food plan that we call low glycemic, not to be confused with diet. Basically we ask people to stay clear of sugar, flour products, caffeine or refined foods. The reason being is that those foods, for a lot of people with eating disorders, tend to trigger insulin dumping and cause wider variations in blood sugar and we feel it's a physical trigger for people. These items are digested too quickly and kind of shock the body into secreting too much insulin. About a third of the folks we see and probably in the population, who have eating disorder also have histories or are actively involved with self medicating with alcohol, drugs or prescriptions. So SERF is an acronym prescription that I prescribe to patients that anybody you, me, a diabetic, someone with cardiac disease, someone with depression, all of us would do well to do on a daily basis. In fact the exercise component and the food plan have a whole host of studies coming up now showing that they're as effective in helping people with depression as any antidepressant on the market. For years we have known that exercise raises serotonin levels etc. So all we are really saying is that if you have an eating disorder you need to take care of yourself. You can't just throw caution to the wind.

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