"At Least I'm Better Than I Used to Be!"

Are you just settling for partial recovery?

Saturday's breakfast. But after this, I did have another waffle,
because it really wasn't enough for me.
Daniella, a regular blog follower in her 20s, recently asked me for advice about fullness, about eating enough. So I’m responding to her concerns, addressing in more general terms what might be your fears as well. She writes:

I have struggled on and off with an eating disorder for 9 years, before finally seeking treatment last August. … Since then, I have come a really long way.

Minus slips here and there, I am no longer actively restricting. I have also moved up from following a pretty strict meal plan to working on intuitive eating. After many years of completely losing touch with and ignoring my hunger signals, they are finally back and I actually listen. I ...no longer wait until I am beyond starving to eat something. Although I am no longer on a meal plan, I pretty much still follow a loose version of the 3 meals and 3 snacks plan…

And now the problem, fullness. I am scared to death of feeling full. ...I am not actually allowing myself to eat enough in one sitting to where I physically feel full. ... (but) I am not actively choosing to stop eating like I used to. (In the past) I would set aside a certain amount of food and only allow myself to eat that, nothing more no matter how hungry I was. But that isn't the case anymore. Stopping when I do just feels natural to me. I don't feel like I am depriving myself at all. I don't leave the meal/snack frustrated or wanting more or even continue to think about food. I think I have just conditioned myself after all of these years to stop eating when I no longer feel hungry, instead of when I feel fullness.

I can recognize that this is still eating disordered ...I also know that the uncomfortableness and anxiety is much more mental then physical. The best way to judge my fullness is really by noticing when I get hungry again next and how soon it is. And I know that this means that I am still not completely in touch with my body.

Any suggestions of how to get passed this? I have allowed myself to stay stuck in this place for a while because of fear and convenience. I've justified where I am by telling myself that I am eating so much better then I used to …”

It seemed like the right amount, but it was a bit too much.
First, kudos to Daniella for the incredible strides she has made in her recovery, and for her honesty and insight into this issue.

So what do I think?

Well, it depends. Not knowing Daniella's (or your) full situation, I need to ask the following:

  • Are you now in a healthy weight range, to support normal body temperature, blood pressure and pulse, and menses?
    • If not, your frequent eating is still inadequate, necessitating an increased intake.
  • Are you limiting your food selection because of this fear of fullness?
    • True recovery provides the freedom to consume a wide range of foods.
  • Is your pattern of eating interfering with your life?
    • Feeling full--I had had enough.
    • From what Daniella adds, her work-at-home schedule allows for frequent eating to accommodate her need. But her schedule will soon be changing, and she won't have this luxury any more.
  • And is getting hungry frequently interfering with your thoughts, your anticipation of getting to eat, your preoccupation with feeding yourself? 
    • Then clearly this needs to change.
    • "Scared to death" is not a good place to be.

Convinced? Then here are some strategies to move forward.

  • Take baby steps. Make a small addition to one or two meals or snacks, and see how it goes. Did any bad come off it? Then it's safe to continue. Any perceivable benefits? Then use these to justify continuing on this course.
  • Add foods that are quite safe, to start. First goal is just getting enough. Work on variety later.
  • Reality check. What's the worst that can happen by adding, let's say, a fruit, a yogurt, toast, for instance? Nothing. Remember it takes at least 3500 surplus calories over and above your need to gain a single pound.
  • Read an old post on this topic which discussed titration—figuring out justhow much it takes.

Over time, you will discover just how much your body tends to need for its standard routine, and it won't take so much work.

And remember your goal. Full recovery. 

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