Challenging fear foods and food rules

Food challenges. Ugh.

This is a part of recovery I’ve only ever touched on, and I think it is one of the main reasons I have been stuck in quasi recovery, taking two steps forward, one back, one forward, two back and on and on.

It is a core part of CBT-E but I’ve yet to had a therapist really push it. Part of this is probably because I’m sneaky and I can look like I’m challenging myself but actually I’m always up against the boundary but never quite over it. I change the rules, I’ll compensate, I’ll hold back just a little or sometimes I’ll outright lie.

The nature of outpatient treatment in the UK is that across the two different services I’ve been with, the four different nurses/counsellors/therapists- none of them have actually seen me eat. They’ve made meal plan suggestions, talked me through the ‘healthy plate’ etc. but have never seen me actually eat. They’ve never even really seen my food- once I showed a counsellor my lunch and she just looked at the different pieces (I was going through a small bits of lots of things phase which involved various Tupperware pots) and labelled it disordered and told me I need to stop that (that really helpful sentence…).

While they’ve certainly stressed the need for structured eating and sufficient calories, the onus on designing the meal plans has always been mine. So a great looking ‘pasta and veg’ on the meal plan actually means a tiny amount of red lentil pasta with mostly veg , chopped tomatoes and herbs if Im feeling wild. ‘Yoghurt and grapes’ as a snack means carefully measured fat free natural yoghurt with 12 grapes. ‘Peanut butter on toast’ means a tiny spread of one brand of peanut butter on one band of bread very carefully worked around my other meals for the week. There is always a rule, always a complex calculation, always an attempt to quieten the voice that tells me I’m a failed anorexic and it doesn’t matter how little I eat I will never be thin but I must keep trying anyway as imagine how huge I’d be if I ate normally.

But this time I am committed, so with that comes a pledge to be honest with my nurse about the rules, the thoughts, the worries, the rituals, that are tied to my approach to food, and to face the horrendous anxiety and panic that this will provoke. The decision to recover is made, and this is part of it, however much I wish it wasn’t. But this might be the key to real freedom, so surely it’s worth a shot.