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For people who’ve spent a long time engaged in dysregulated eating and are trying to become “normal” eaters, it takes a while to put food into a comfortable perspective. These questions must be asked and answered: Do you see food as a source of pleasure or only nourishment? How much focus and what kind of focus will you put on eating to be physically and mentally healthy? What place do you want food to have in your life?
Of course, the answer to all of these questions can be given only by you. How other dysregulated eaters respond will be what they think will work for them. Eating is, indeed, a very idiosyncratic activity. I was reminded of this process of figuring out how food fits into one’s life while talking with a client recently. She is a mostly “normal” eater at home or eating out by herself and is joyfully re-discovering how wonderful food can taste. This re-discovery is often necessary when food has been either your frenemy for so long.
It’s lovely to have a great meal or even a delicious bite of food. It’s a plus when food tastes yummy. But that isn’t always possible. Sometimes we eat in order to not be hungry later. Sometimes we eat food we don’t care for because it doesn’t matter much in the moment and we want to move on to more fun/special activities. As you recover from eating problems, give up all-or-nothing thinking about food needing to be one thing or another. There are times when food will be fantastic and times when it won’t. So what? This is true of everything in life—sunsets, movies, parties, CDs, even sex.
On the other hand, once you get over fearing food, why not make choices that are pleasurable? Now that you’re not afraid that good tasting food means you’re bound to consume more of it or “should” never eat it, it makes sense to view food as pleasure, not your only pleasure, but one of many. It’s time to make a true friend of food and find the ones you really crave and enjoy most.
To figure out what place food has in your life, consider the pleasures you look forward to daily, weekly, and monthly. Where does food fit in? If it’s still at the top of a short list, you’ll want to find other activities which bring you joy and make your heart sing. If it’s way at the bottom of your list, could it be because you’re actually still afraid of it and feel uneasy about it sneaking into the center of your life again? When you’re recovering from dysregulated eating, it takes time to recalibrate your feelings about food. There’s no rush, but make sure that this re-evaluation happens sooner rather than later.
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