It seems odd to think that something as seemingly obvious as eating three meals a day could radically change your life. But if you're someone who has spent years fighting daily with disordered eating practices, the idea has probably already triggered some sort of response within you.
You see, for years my hours, days, and weeks were organized around controlling my food, my exercise, and my body weight and shape.
These practices removed me mentally, emotionally, and physically from engaging and being present in day-to-day life. Days were organized around what I could eat, what I couldn’t eat, where I could eat, where I could buy the foods I could eat, when I needed to exercise, and where I could exercise.
Evening plans with friends were routinely turned down to allow for my nightly date with the gym treadmill. Eating out became a stressful and unpleasant social activity and required desperately scouring the menu for the safest food option available. Friends would dive into the all-you-can-eat sushi menu while I feasted on my side dish of pickled ginger.
Eating disorders strip away all aspects of normal daily living, transforming each passing day into an internalized battle — one in which each calorie and stair climbed is tracked, numbers dancing wildly in the mind.
The deeper into this world you enter, the more you leave behind reality and physical and emotional presence in the "real" world.
Before recovery, my life was dictated by where, when, how, and what I could or couldn’t eat. Finally surrendering to eating three meals a day, every day, was both the scariest and most freeing step I had to take toward getting back a life worth living.
It took a long time to get where I am today, but here's what I can share about eating three healthy, balanced, normal-sized meals a day:
There's so much freedom and joy in being able to eat all those "fear" foods again — like cheese, bread, eggs, avocados, dessert, and even certain fruits — that I was so afraid of, when they are contained within a healthy, loving meal.
I have so much more headspace and time created by letting go of counting, weighing, and tracking numbers.
Eating out is pleasurable and enjoyable, not a one-off occurrence followed by a week of starvation.
I rarely think about food between meals and am able to fully engage and participate in life.
I can eat with friends and family and be more interested in the people and the conversation than the food.
I fully enjoy the hours between meals because my body knows it will be nourished properly at regular times throughout the day.
I am finally pursuing the activities I am passionate about because I have the energy, time, and space to explore them.
Although there have been many elements involved in my recovery from my eating disorder, eating three proper meals a day (and snacks when needed) has brought a huge amount of freedom into my life.
I don’t have to fight through the day on willpower, or spend all afternoon making trips to the fridge. I don’t have to become weak from low blood sugar only to devour half the kitchen cupboard later on.
There are definitely moments I struggle — days I don’t want to eat or meals I feel I will never be able to stop eating; times when I eat consecutive snacks or seek out food to alleviate feelings of boredom, anxiety, stress, or fatigue.
I have to forgive myself for these times and constantly remind myself that my body is not my enemy. I've spent years treating it as a loathsome thing to be conquered and mercilessly torn apart.
My body is a lot wiser than I am and more complex than my mind will ever fully grasp. This is a daily reminder because my default mode is to criticize and condemn my body.
But just as it took time for me to surrender to eating normal-sized, balanced meals, I trust that the journey of self-love and self-acceptance is happening in its own time as well.
One day at a time, I eat my meals graciously with the knowledge that doing so has given me more of a life than "thin" ever did.
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