A couple of weeks ago, I posted a What I Ate Wednesday about what I ate in the weight gain phase of recovery.
Now, someone reading this post without context might think, “Wow. That doesn’t seem like a very healthy way to gain weight. Weren’t you eating a whole lot of sugar, processed carbs, and saturated fats?”
My short answer: Sure was.
My long answer: It’s actually really difficult to gain weight without eating sugar, processed carbs, and saturated fats. What’s more, if you are recovering from a restrictive eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, you need to eat these things to help your mind recover from the irrational demonizing of these foods as much as to help your body recover from starvation.
I remember once, within the first couple of weeks after I committed to recovery, I made myself a pot of soup with full-fat coconut milk. I was counting up to a calorie minimum, and the coconut milk seemed like an efficient way to get extra energy in.
But after my soup, I suddenly felt the need to read up about coconut milk online. Isn’t coconut milk…unhealthy? Of course, my Google search greeted me with scores of advice from various credible sources explaining that coconut milk is high in saturated fat and should be enjoyed only in moderation, plus some not-so-credible sources suggesting it should be avoided entirely.
I went into a complete panic.
Coconut milk is high in saturated fat. And okay, for someone with no history of undereating who needs or chooses to watch their saturated fat intake, maybe that’s good to know.
But what I would say to former self is this:
“You are XX pounds underf***ingweight. You have been literally starving for XX months. You sure as Hell better believe you need that coconut milk in your system!”
If you are trying to gain weight, you cannot do it on your safe, “healthy” foods alone. You need to eat fear foods. And I am not just talking about once in a while. You need to regularly be eating brownies, chips, cheese, ice cream, pizza, nachos, burgers, French fries, peanut butter, cinnamon rolls…
Your body has a ton of lost energy to recover, muscles and bones to rebuild, hormones to restore, vital systems to re-vitalize…
Do not use ground chicken or turkey or extra-lean beef. Use the stuff with a good amount of fat in it!
Do not put stevia or Splenda or whatever the hell else they’ve come up with now in your coffee. Use sugar!
Do not use a “bagel slim” for your breakfast or sandwich. Use a bagel–and top it with real cream cheese, real avocado, real mayo, real cheese, real peanut butter, real egg….whatever.
Do not skip dessert! Eat dessert!
Drink water, but don’t shun other beverages. Drink juice, milk, lemonade, smoothies, lattes, hot chocolate, heck, real soda if that’s your jam.
Do not use reduced-fat versions of foods–coconut milk, powdered PB (ew!), salad dressing, mayonnaise. Use the real thing!
Do not buy lousy reduced-fat “butter” cut with chemicals and low-fat yogurt. Just…don’t do that ever.
Do not buy “baked” chips. Buy fried chips!
Do not make “pancakes” out of egg whites and mashed bananas. Eat real pancakes!
Do not air pop your popcorn. Pop it in butter or oil!
Do not buy low-fat frozen yogurt. Buy ice cream!
You get the idea.
Please note (Cora pointed this out in the comments and I think I should clarify): None of these foods are enough to make a person gain weight. I eat all of these foods as part of my regular diet, and I maintain a very consistent weight. Adding these foods back into your diet would only be a starting point.
None of these foods are, in fact, unhealthy; they are demonized as so by our food fear culture.
My point is that, if you want to recover from a restrictive eating disorder, confronting fear foods is not an option. It is a requirement. If you exclude many of the foods from your diet that get a bad rap in popular “health” media, you will never recover.
If you can’t eat a sugar cookie or a bag of potato chips while you are trying to gain weight, how will you ever be able to enjoy these foods as part of your normal, post-recovery life?
Food for thought.
Linking up with Amanda to share these thoughts for Thinking Out Loud Thursday.