The Best Diet For Those Struggling With Disordered Eating

The best diet for those struggling with disordered eating

There’s a specific diet that works wonders for those struggling with disordered eating.  Its simple, tasty and really when it comes down to it, doesn’t require much thought or planning.  First of all though, what is disordered eating and how do you figure out if you’re a disordered eater?  The following is a list of signs that could mean you’re struggling with disordered eating:

  • You have rules about what you can and can’t eat and follow them strictly, even if you don’t have a condition that warrants it (eg. celiac disease, cancer, autoimmune condition, etc.).
  • You end up binge eating on foods that are either on your “good” or “bad” lists.
  • You feel emotionally distraught after binge eating and wonder why you have no willpower.
  •  You avoid social situations or events because they won’t have food that you can eat.
  • You feel anxious and stressed when you’re around foods that you don’t allow yourself to eat.
  • You’re only interests involve food, diets, health and exercise.
  • You’re always starting over on a new diet after “falling off the wagon.”
  • You feel better than others because you eat such a “clean” diet.
  • You judge others for their food choices.
  • You weigh yourself often and your day is determined by the number on the scale.
  • You feel guilty after eating something you don’t consider to be a “clean” food or when you’ve eaten too much.
  • You can’t decide what to order from the menu until the people you’re with order first and their decisions sway yours.
  • You use exercise to burn off the extra calories you eat.
  • You’re stuck in a restriction and binge eating cycle.

This isn’t a complete list and I am not a psychologist by any means.  I’m only speaking from my own personal experience, so if you feel that you are struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating then I would recommend speaking to a psychologist.

People often think because I am a holistic nutritionist that I’m judging them for what they eat.  I often hear comments like, “I know, my lunch is so unhealthy today” or “don’t look Richelle, I’m eating this or that.”  I’ve also had people pretend to cover my eyes as they reach for a muffin or donut.  Seriously though, I don’t judge.

The worst thing I could do as a holistic nutritionist is push someone to develop orthorexia, which is an eating disorder characterized by extreme or obsessive avoidance of foods thought to be unhealthy.

My history with food has gone from anorexia, to exercise bulimia to binge eating disorder to orthorexia to where I am now.  So I’ve had a lot of experience with disordered eating and am sensitive to not judging others, as I know I have no clue where they’re at in their journeys.  I would much rather someone have a healthy mind and eat fast food and ice cream weekly, than have a perfect diet and be broken inside, filled with anxiety, isolation and depression.  To me a healthy mind is a much more important aspect of health because without it, you can’t have a healthy body.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that food can have an impact on mental health as well.  The mental health I’m talking about in this post though, is that of a disordered eater.  So what’s the best diet for those struggling with disordered eating?

The best diet for those struggling with disordered eating

The best diet for those struggling with disordered eating, is no diet at all!  It’s removing all the rules and focusing on other things in your life instead.

Finding different hobbies that don’t feed into your disorder.  Maybe you need to step away from structured exercise and try something different like a dance class, fencing or rock climbing.  Maybe you need to quit cooking and just buy your meals everyday for awhile.  Or maybe making all sorts of new recipes you wouldn’t allow yourself to eat before, is what you need.  Food should taste good and I don’t think that you should force yourself to eat anything that doesn’t taste good to you, just because it’s healthy.

Maybe you need to quit reading food blogs, listening to nutrition podcasts and following fitness experts on Instagram.  Instead try looking for humour, like a new comedy podcast.  Watch movies that make you cry and feel angry.  Feeling all your different emotions can be very healthy and healing to your spirit.  Learn about something you have no clue about, because you were too busy focusing on trying to control your body, like politics, feminism or astrology.  Make deep connections with others by dropping your guard and telling them about your struggles.  You’ll find that we’re all human and each of us has our own issues.

Richelle eating ice cream

I know for myself, that when I started coming out of my disordered eating struggle and dropping things that didn’t serve me anymore, it was challenging to find things to replace them with.  When I quit running and training for marathons I didn’t know who I was.  People would ask me what my hobbies were and I couldn’t tell them because I didn’t have any.  This is a great time to try new things, meet new people and discover what fires you up.  I’m still practicing this and I’ll admit  at times I slip back into focusing on food, health and fitness in regards to my body size instead of general physical and mental health.

Recovery is not linear but filled with ups and downs like a roller coaster ride.

It’s also unique for everyone so what I’m saying might not resonate with you and if it doesn’t, all I can say is to keep trying until you find what does.  If I hadn’t tried and kept trying, I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet my amazing boyfriend.  In the past I never opened up to intimacy and was too worried about what my body looked like.  I wouldn’t date until I got down to a size that I felt confident at.  Guess what?  That never happened because no matter what the scale said, it was never good enough!  Not until I began to practice self-love at the size I was, did I let myself open up to the possibility of love.

The best diet for those with disordered eating is no diet at all

This past weekend I went for lunch with a new friend and got to practice being authentic.  Instead of worrying about what to order, I ordered a butter chicken wrap, gluten and all, with an iced chai.  Being in the health field, I sometimes struggle with what I know is healthy and what feeds my disordered eating tendencies.  I’ve learned that gluten contains gliadin, which turns on a molecule called zonulin, that’s linked to intestinal permeability (leaky gut).  At the same time, I’m not celiac and I don’t have an autoimmune disorder.  So to show that disordered eating brain that sometimes pushes it’s way back into my consciousness, I say screw it and eat the gluten!  If I had been too worried about making sure to eat gluten-free, I wouldn’t have had the chance to practice being authentic and wouldn’t have been able to learn more about this person.  I chose to nourish my mental health and because of that I wasn’t in a stressed out place while I ate.   My digestion was able to work properly and I felt great after that meal.  No bloating, gas or stomach upset.  I think we all too often forget about how our minds can impact us and manifest the issues we think about.

If you struggle with disordered eating and have been doing the same thing over and over again, I suggest you try something different to break out of it.  Disordered eating usually always goes back to body image, so of course that’s a huge part of helping you break the cycle.  That’s a topic for another post though.  Try breaking your own rules to gain freedom and watch your mental health and life improve.

4 thoughts on “The Best Diet For Those Struggling With Disordered Eating”

  • Thanks for being so open and honest! You’re totally right.. if you’re stressing about what you’re eating it’s going to affect the way your body digests it..

  • Great post Richelle! I definitely think it’s a challenge sometimes as a Nutritionist to promote healthy eating, set an example, while also trying to express to clients that healthy balance is important and that no foods are “bad”, but rather mindfulness needs to be practiced and honouring the body!

    I myself have walked a fine line into orthorexia land and luckily noticed what was happening before it got too out of hand so I always keep a keen eye on where my clients are at. I think our relationship with food is an ever changing journey but I know the freedom of dropping the “rules” and rather finding that sense of balance.

    I ordered a gluteny gluten gluten filled pizza crust from famosa this weekend (without the cheese because of my dairy allergy) topped with veggies and enjoyed two glorious slices with a salad on the side – I too felt GREAT after because of my mindfulness and that gluten digested just fine. 🙂 I’ll probably do it again in the near future, haha!

    • Thanks Christal! I couldn’t agree more! I think the mindfulness aspect is an important part for sure. Haha! I love that you ordered pizza! Unfortunately, after I wrote this post I did experience some digestive issues and headaches in the followings days. Since then I’ve tried eating gluten once more and experienced the same symptoms. At least now I know gluten is an issue for me and I’m not just avoiding it because I think it’s a bad food. On the other hand I do fine with dairy, so I will be eating some ice cream this summer and probably some gluten-free pizza with the cheese!

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