Weight loss vs eating disorder recovery

Not incompatible. But not the same.   Image:  Tomaat (Solanum lycopersicum),  Anselmus Boëtius de Boodt, 1596 - 1610, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

Not incompatible. But not the same.
Image: Tomaat (Solanum lycopersicum), Anselmus Boëtius de Boodt, 1596 - 1610, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

So last week we talked about some of the differences between losing weight and recovering from an eating disorder. They're not mutually exclusive!

But losing weight is not the same as recovering from an eating disorder (and please feel free to perform citizen self-diagnosis here! I do. And I don't care at all that the professional who knew me best at the time said, flatly: You don't have an eating disorder. I didn't have a buzzer on me at the time so, with all respect: WRONG! Full Binge Eating Disorder, no question.)

For me, it was 1000x more important to recover from binge eating than it was to lose weight. Trying to lose weight - in the way that I did it, ie totally bananas - made my eating disorder so much worse, and so much longer-lived. Recovery absolutely came first.

Next came weight gain. It's true! Because at the time, the best tool I had for recovery was Intuitive Eating. I've since talked to many people who had similar experiences with IE, which is to say: Oh, eat when I'm hungry? Don't mind if I do! In fact, I'm hungry right now. In faaaaaact ... I'm never not hungry for the next two years. Thanks for asking!

I guess I don't really call that recovery.

Eventually I started eating meals, instead of grazing, bingeing, picking, starving, skipping meals, eating all day long, not eating after 6pm, and otherwise alternating between painful restriction and wild indulgence. I started eating meals in an orderly way, or the opposite of eating disorder, and I had a lot of success with it, and that is what I teach people to do today. Eating regular meals, and all the simplicity, affordability, mental stability and relaxation, dignity, self-respect, conviviality, flexibility and sustainability that eating meals implies, is what I call recovery.

What eating meals still didn't quite do for me was get the last 20lbs or so off my bones. And if you can't imagine caring about 20lbs, that's very fine, no problem. Not everyone should care.

But I have been caring about that for some time now as those 20lbs kind of come and go and come, and I have begun to face this basic fact again, which sometimes shows up as the faintest whiff of growing suspicion: I think just perhaps that my steady diet of haute baked goods and Humphry Slocombe Secret Breakfast might be incompatible with a lower weight. Like, maybe I need less calorie-dense food, mmmm?

So I've been making some consistent changes which - shocking news! - are mostly to do with eating more vegetables.

And I am making changes to the CONTENT of my diet the exact same way I made changes to the MANNER of my eating: I set up a good go-to alternative. The same way I swapped in a repeating schedule of meals (I just cannot overstate the ease and miraculous effectiveness of this duh-obvious strategy) in place of a chaotic cycle of bingeing and starving, I have put in place a simple strategy (spoiler: a big salad; yeah that's another thing you've heard of) instead of flailing around trying to figure out something different every lunchtime, or defaulting to grilled cheese, my BFF since kindergarten.

I like to tell people that swapping disordered eating for meals - which, importantly, have a beginning, a middle, and an END and then a GAP before the next meal - is extremely likely to lead to weight loss, even sometimes rapid weight loss.

But maybe not all the weight you would like. You could look at your diet and see what in there is incompatible with a lower weight. And if there is something in your diet that contributes to more weight than you want, I think your best bet for lasting change is to focus not on what you need to stop doing, but on what you're going to do instead.

weightMax Daniels