The other week I spent a few days living alone as my parents were on holiday and my girlfriend was at University. This meant that for the first time since fully committing to recovery I was solely responsible for maintaining my intake and I won’t lie, it was daunting. Whilst I am confident in my abilities to cook for myself having further developed these skills over lockdown, the thought of portioning my own food, not making ED fuelled alterations, and honouring my own hunger without the influence of others was scary. That said, I did it and it was certainly a challenge I was ready and needed to face. It is also something I need to repeat in order to cement the rewiring of my neural pathways, but for now I wanted to share some of the things I found helpful as well as what I learnt.
One thing that helped me maintain motivation and keep in the recovery mindset when alone was viewing it as a challenge (which it was!). This was beneficial as it allowed me to turn my perfectionist traits on their head and use them to my advantage as I saw eating sufficiently and honouring all hunger as a goal that I was keen to achieve. This is a method I have used earlier in recovery as is the theme with lots of these methods. This is because when in vulnerable situations it can be good to turn to tried and tested measures which are certain to keep you safe. This is not evidence of a lapse as you are not stepping backwards, it is simply a mechanism to protect your health and wellbeing. Through using this method I was able to tackle my fear food of ice cream. This is something I have been repeatedly facing with my girlfriend thanks to Sainsbury's offer on Ben and Jerry’s at the moment, but not something I have tackled alone. In my earlier posts I talked a lot about the importance of challenging foods and behaviours in different contexts and this was an opportunity for me to do this.
Another thing that I found useful was following my maintenance plan detailing my vow to never again skip a meal, as well as loosely following my old meal plan of 3 meals and 3 snacks each day. The latter is a structure I still try to stick to even following my discharge from services as it is crucial to me keeping the ED thoughts at bay and continuing to restore weight. In the absence of others this was especially useful as the ED thoughts to skip snacks or pick lower calorie options are louder and in addition to this I was more likely just to forget! (something that in the depths of my illness was unimaginable as I was completely preoccupied with food). Whilst this is something I tried to do alone I was also fortunate to have the support of my loved ones checking up on me and supporting me through my first attempt.
Something else I find difficult when alone is spending money or time on making “nice” food as my ED tells me it is a waste if it’s just for me. Last week I therefore challenged this by taking time out of my day to bake cookies and follow a fun recipe for dinner as well as go food shopping and actively not buy the cheapest option. This is an aspect of my eating disorder I have never really discussed on the blog, but one I would like to explore more as in my experience the control it exerts goes much further than restricting intake. This is an area whereby the ‘food = fuel’ message breaks down as food is so much more than just energy. Food can bring pleasure and comfort as well as being sociable, exciting and enjoyable. These positive feelings are not just reserved for when you’re around other people. You are worthy of food and the associated experience always.
Further from these examples I also used the likes of distractions and mantras to get through my time alone. This took the form of plenty of Netflix and reminding myself what I’m fighting for when things felt tough.
I hope this post has been helpful to some of you.
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3