When beginning treatment most clients are very out of touch with their hunger cues. Their version of “what’s normal” for their eating is distorted by eating disorder thoughts. Many are resistant or hesitant to follow a meal plan because that means giving up control and their eating disorder behaviors, which can be a very frightening thought. So besides the discomfort and stress… what does the meal plan REALLY even do? The meal plan is a critical part of eating disorder recovery and here is why:
- Introduces Normalized Eating: Eating disorders distort reality. Many clients become out of touch with what nutrients are needed to fuel their bodies properly because their eating disorder voice has told them otherwise. The meal plan helps to normalize your eating patterns and heal the body after being deprived of adequate nutrients. Getting the body balanced, nutritionally, requires the structure that a meal plan provides.
- Increases Introspection: Now that the meal plan is helping to provide structure and taking care of proper nourishment, some of the ability to utilize behaviors has been taken away. The meal plan allows you to look at where the urges to control your food intake or engage in destructive behaviors come from. The focus is removed from the food and allows you to better understand how you are utilizing food or controlling weight to cope with emotions.
- Separates food from Feelings: If there is strong frustration with the meal plan, it’s important to look at where the feelings are really coming from and recognize it is not about the food. The ultimate nutrition goal is to get to a place where food is separated from feelings and you are able to eat mindfully and trust your own hunger/fullness cues.
The meal plan can be considered as map that will guide you to the final destination of recovery. Eventually, you will get to a point where you know the route so well that you won’t need the map anymore.