Something I’ve seen a lot of in recovery blogs lately, and something that I can certainly relate to in my own life, is the idea of deserving and not deserving food. I had a mini recovery breakthrough this past week that relates to this concept. I realized that, although I have been eating a certain number of calories in order to try to gain weight, I saw this limit as a restriction as well and would never allow myself more than that number whether or not I was hungry. I blame the diet mentality instilled in my brain so long ago for this.
Because of my history as an overweight person, I was convinced that everybody needed to limit their food and that I was just bad at it. So, even when I began recovery and was working on regaining necessary pounds, I was living under the illusion that my treatment team would be equally as disappointed in me if I ate more than my allotted calories as they would be if I ate less than that amount. Honestly, I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that I had this deep-seated belief. I was immersing myself in recovery, yet I truly believed that I still needed to be on a diet.
This brings up issues of deserving food and trusting my body, which certainly run deep for me. While I was overweight, I never felt that I really deserved food. I did not feel deserving of hunger. I was entirely out of touch with my body and its signals. Even as my weight dwindled and I gradually became underweight, these thoughts held on. Now, I did not trust my body because my hunger signals were essentially absent. Any intuition I once had was replaced by arbitrary caloric consumption and expenditure calculations. My trust for myself grew smaller and smaller. This was also during a time of early recovery, when I faced what is every anorexic’s worst nightmare: extreme hunger. I was starving. All the time. My body was screaming for more food, but I refused to believe it. How could I be hungry when I was eating x amount of calories? Surely I wasn’t really hungry. Surely if I ate I would never stop. It was a terrifying time in my life and it reinforced the idea that I needed to stay in control because I did not deserve to eat more and I could not be trusted.
I still don’t totally trust my body, if I’m being completely honest. It’s a process. But I’m getting there. I really am. And I am gradually beginning to believe that I deserve food. I deserve food because I am a living, breathing person on this Earth. Everybody deserves food, and I am no exception to that. I would never deny one of my pets food, or a small child. Why would I deny myself the same essential fuel that we all need? If you have battled with feeling deserving of food, I encourage you to think about why you have these self-destructive, limiting thoughts, and how you might be able to challenge them, even if it’s only in small ways. For example, yesterday I had some ice cream even though that is not my normal afternoon snack. Do you know why? Because I am not on a diet, and if I want ice cream at 3:00pm, I deserve ice cream right then and there. And so do you!