The food-self relationship is almost never an easy one to understand. Though most people don’t realize it, approximately 1 million Canadians suffer from an eating disorder or disordered eating habits. Most sufferers are women between the ages of 15-24. And with the stress of our capitalistic society, diet culture, and constant differing views on “wellness”, who could blame anyone for feeling this way?
Food is a crucial part of all our lives. And when you’re struggling to heal your relationship with it, it can feel like a hopeless cause. Of course, therapy is an amazing option for anyone’s mental health. However, not all of us can afford it. These are my most recommended alternatives when it comes to navigating my disordered eating.
Preparing a meal makes eating less of a task on your to-do list and more of an engaging and rewarding experience. When I put on a podcast or music and really focus on what I’m doing, cooking becomes a fun activity that I look forward to every day! Keeping my smaller-than-most grocery budget in mind, I try to purchase affordable, universal ingredients that will guarantee me a delicious, simple, and nutritious meal.
My personal favorite meal to cook is stir fry. You can purchase a package of frozen vegetables, a large package of rice, and a bottle of your favorite stir fry sauce for under $15! The rice and sauce should last you at least 2-4 meals and, they won’t break the bank. I like to simmer my vegetables in a frying pan with the sauce and put the mixture on top of the rice when I’m done. By the time I’m done cooking, I have created something that will sustain me and my body. And I have plenty of spare time left to do other things because it is such a simple recipe!
For me, protein is the food group I struggle the most to keep up with. Not only are healthy proteins a more expensive purchase, but meats are a food that I struggled with throughout my eating disorder. Eggs are a cheap protein source that can be made in so many ways! Along with some toast, this is a great option for a quick and healthy breakfast.
Connecting with myself
I’m sure this sounds vague, but it is truly one of the most useful tools I have when it comes to disordered eating. Personally, I do yoga and meditate to do this! Both practices focus on the mind-body connection and self-awareness. The more aware you are of yourself, your triggers, and habits, the more likely you are to be able to combat them.
You can find free yoga tutorials all over the internet! I’d recommend watching a few YouTube videos on it first. Then develop your own routine based on the positions that feel best for you. Technically you don’t need a mat to do yoga, but I found mine for $20 at Walmart and it is one of my favorite purchases.
One of the reasons why I love yoga so much is that it is a gentle but effective physical activity. It makes me feel good in my body without using exercise as a tool to burn calories. A lot of disordered eaters also have a tricky relationship with exercise. Yoga is the first physical activity I’ve tried that makes me feel strong and calm without thinking about weight loss.
Find the root of your disordered eating
When I first meditated, I asked my girlfriend how she does it and she simply told me “it kind of just happens.” I was skeptical (knowing my own brain full of thoughts) but was surprised to find this to be true the first time I meditated. After some deep breathing, my mind quieted and focused itself on things that I needed to work through. Meditation has helped me sort through the chaos and take a moment to truly be with myself. Whether it be my eating disorder, other stressors, or positives in my life. There also lots of guided meditation apps and videos online that you can try if you need some motivation! I prefer silence, but I know many people who use white noise or quiet music to help their meditation process.
Using all the free resources I can find!
I don’t know where I’d be without the varying free resources that I have access to. It might have taken a little research, but it has been well worth it for the sake of my mental health.
I only recently started listening to podcasts and when I needed a break from true crime. I decided to see if there were any about eating disorders. I was pleasantly surprised to discover there are actually a lot out there! The first I listened to was the Eating Disorder Recovery Podcast with Dr. Janean Anderson. This one mainly discusses the psychology of eating disorders, along with inspiration and advice on healing your relationship with food. Listening to a psychologist explain a bit of what goes on inside my brain and the potential reasons are validating.
Often, I feel like my eating disorder is invisible because I don’t have a therapist helping me through it and acknowledging it every week. Podcasts have become a way for me to recognize my disorder and give it the attention it deserves. I also enjoy the podcast Life, Unrestricted with Meret Boxler. Boxler interviews body positivity advocates and eating disorder professionals about their eating disorder journeys and how the recovery process.
You aren’t alone
Podcasts aren’t the only medium through which people are sharing their stories and advocating for eating disorder recovery. Elias Oras is an eating disorder recovery coach and the creator of Follow the Intuition. This blog has been a go-to of mine when I’m in a rut with my recovery. It gives me the positive inspiration I need to help me get back on track. Oras writes blog posts and makes YouTube videos about her recovery, intuitive eating, body image, and so much more! Her content is educational and fun, which is a great combination when it comes to such a sensitive topic.
This option will vary depending on your own circumstances, but it is always a worthwhile idea to seek free mental health resources through your school or work. Most universities offer free counseling services, which is what I use. I recently made an intake appointment at my university’s mental health center! Now I’m on the path to scheduling bi-weekly appointments with my counselor!
If you’re reading this article, it means you’ve already taken the first step in bettering your relationship with food. This journey may be difficult and tiring, but as long as you’re trying, you’re getting better.