Regular Eating and Eating Disorder Recovery
Regular eating is the foundation upon which eating disorder recovery happens. Often, when you are going through an eating disorder, eating becomes irregular and infrequent. In therapy, we can work with you to overcome irregular eating with a regular eating pattern. A regular eating pattern can help to give you an eating structure, keep your blood sugar steady, give you energy, improve your mood, and combat binge eating and other disordered eating behaviors. We focus on regular eating early in treatment because it is the foundation of beginning to change your eating habits. Once regular eating is established, it becomes more manageable to change food choices and eating habits.
Many people who struggle with eating disorders eat irregularly, perhaps skipping meals and going long periods of time without eating, and/or grazing in between planned meals when not hungry. Irregular eating contributes to disorder eating because you become overly hungry, so it takes a lot of food to feel satisfied, and it is likely that you will lose control and binge eat. Irregular eating can also lead to negative emotions, such as anxiety and irritability, which often trigger disordered eating behaviors.
So, what does eating regularly look like? In a typical day, this involves: (1) Eating within 2 hours of waking up; (2) Eating three meals per day; (3) Not going more than 4-5 hours between meals and
snacks. This means that you end up needing to plan approximately 2 snacks; (4) Planning and scheduling times to eat meals and snacks; (5) Eating only at scheduled times and avoiding grazing between planned meals and snacks; and (6) Allowing at least 2 hours between meals and snacks. You need to eat regularly regardless of hunger cues, as sensations of hunger are disrupted when you have an eating disorder and are therefore not reliable.
This pattern can be very difficult to establish if your eating is irregular! Therapy can be helpful in slowly building up towards this pattern of eating, and helping you overcome roadblocks.