Perfectionist attitudes surrounding food
In today's post I wanted to talk about perfectionism, and in particular the way in which we can apply these standards to our food. This is something I have struggled with throughout my illness, and whilst I now engage in these thoughts and behaviours much less frequently, they do still crop up occasionally and so I wanted to share my thoughts.
If you are uncertain as to what this entails, I am referring to the likes of feeling that food needs to be 'just right' in order to warrant eating it. For example you may feel it needs to be aesthetically pleasing or 'Instagram worthy', you may believe that whatever you consume has to be your absolute favourite as there is no point “wasting calories” on something you don’t absolutely love, or you may think that it has to be eaten in a precise environment or manor and be a full experience. These beliefs are often the result of restricting your intake, as malnourishment has resulted in obsessive thoughts surrounding food. It makes sense as if you are only allowing yourself x amount of food then of course you are going to want it to be perfect, as you will most likely have been dreaming of it for however long and so have high expectations for it.
I have found that the most effective way to prevent these thoughts and therefore eliminate the perfectionist behaviours is just to eat. I know that for many of you that will sound both obvious and somewhat impossible at the same time, as of course we all know that eating is what will save us but it can seem so difficult. It is however the truth, as by eating adequately and regularly our bodies are able to begin trusting us again. They will learn that food is always available and not something that is to be earned, and as a result of this your obsessions with it will lessen. Consequently, you will be more able to view food as just food instead of this big event that has to go a certain way in order to be worthy. Due to this your eating will become more relaxed and if a meal doesn’t go exactly as planned then you will no longer be bombarded with anxiety and ED thoughts as you will know that it is not in fact the end of the world. Along these lines you will be less inclined to get upset if a food doesn’t meet your expectations as you know that you can just move on. This is because you will recognise the multitude of purposes food serves, and so be able to recognise that it is fuelling your life and nourishing your body meaning that if it falls ever so slightly short on flavour or aesthetics it is not a complete disaster, you’ll just try something else next time.
I truly believe that this is the best way to eliminate perfectionist standards around food, as due to refeeding I have found they’ve naturally decreased without me having to actively challenge them. That said, there are some things you can do to help this process and kick those stubborn behaviours that you may still be holding on to. I think this applies more to the rules we may have surrounding the way in which we consume food, for example the way we present it or the crockery and cutlery we use. In order to help overcome these we can apply opposite actions and so if the ED voice is telling you that your meal has to be served in your special bowl, then you must go against it and actively choose a different one. Similarly if your ED is telling you that you have to arrange your plate so that it looks good for a photo then show it who’s boss by mixing in all your ingredients and maybe not taking a photo (because who is that really helpful to?! - post coming soon!). Not only will this help you rewire your brain to unlearn these rules, but it will probably taste a hell of a lot better too and with the time you’ve saved by not meticulously slicing each piece of apple or whatever it is you’re faffing with you can do something you actually enjoy, not just what appeases your ED!
I hope this post was helpful to some of you and encouraged you to step away from your perfectionist behaviours. Let me know what you thought!
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3