Ten Ways to Manage Counting Calories After Recovery
Disordered eating is a challenge faced by many, as is the stigma that often accompanies being one of the millions who experience symptoms. Eating disorders are real illnesses. Despite these popular opinions, eating disorders do not manifest and exert their control over the individual who struggles with them by voluntary choice. Statistics provided by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) indicate as many as thirty million Americans of all ages and genders struggle with an eating disorder. Also, at least one person loses their lives every 62 minutes due to disordered eating. This statistic alone makes eating disorders the mental illness with the highest mortality rate.
A Little About Disordered Eating
The National Eating Disorders Association and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists several diagnosable eating disorders. Some are more well-known than others, but many share common symptoms, treatments, and recovery patterns. The most commonly known are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. However, there are many others, all of which have often have detrimental physical and psychological effects on those who struggle with them. Each diagnosis has specific diagnostic criteria and recognizable signs and symptoms. There are a wide variety of symptoms that present regardless of the diagnosis. These often include behavioral symptoms such as a preoccupation with weight (food, calories, dieting), frequent comments about weight or appearance, food rituals, excessive “need” to exercise, and inability to maintain a healthy weight. Physical symptoms, including excessive weight loss, difficulty sleeping, dental problems, hair thinning or loss, impaired immunity, and changes to heart rate, can also develop. In time, without treatment at a treatment center such as Meadowglade, the symptoms and habits associated with disordered eating can lead to potentially life-threatening medical and psychological consequences.
Eating Disorder Treatment
A diagnosis is only the first step on what is often a long but rewarding journey towards recovery. Treatment for disordered eating usually involves a combination of psychological and nutritional counseling in conjunction with medical and emotional support and monitoring. It is essential for treatment to address the underlying behaviors and symptoms that further disordered habits; however, treatment must also address the medical consequences of disordered eating. Nutritional support and counseling are also essential to ongoing recovery. Treatment plans should be tailored to meet your unique treatment needs and goals. Your treatment plan should also include education about nutritional needs as well as safe and healthy coping strategies to incorporate into aftercare planning. There are a wide variety of treatments that have proven effective in treating disordered eating. Although treatment is often more effective before the disorder becomes chronic, people at all stages of disordered eating can and do recover.
Managing Calories After Recovery
As more and more public figures step forward to share their stories and experiences surrounding disordered eating, the stigma and misconception surrounding this challenging mental health problem are beginning to erode. This is not to say they have disappeared entirely, and many still lack a clear understanding of the challenges someone in eating disorder recovery may (and often does) face as they complete treatment and continue working on their recovery. One of the most significant difficulties you may face is how to manage calories. Disordered eating looks at calories as the enemy. Many eating disorders heavily restrict calorie intake to the point of medical risk. The symptoms of others entail ensuring what goes in must come back out in an effort to maintain balance and avoid weight gain. Prior to treatment, the way in which someone with an eating disorder counts and manages calorie intake is often unsafe and unhealthy. Part of a comprehensive treatment plan involves ensuring you are able to manage healthy eating and calorie consumption safely. So, what are some things you can do to ensure you “feel” healthy while maintaining a safe and effective calorie intake?
Participate in a Safe and Gentle Exercise Routine
Gentle exercise, such as a walk or hike outdoors, can help you feel less bloated. Also, being in the fresh air can help stimulate your senses and improve your mood. Stress and anxiety surrounding food and calories can and do continue to impact the emotional well-being of someone in recovery. It is easy to slowly revert back to being concerned about calorie intake should you see the number on the scale rise after eating a healthy meal. Gentle exercise can help ease these stressors and help you feel calm and more positive about your recovery.
Start Mindfulness Practice
Mindfulness practice provides a greater sense of well-being and helps improve mood. Low mood levels can be accompanied by urges to eat and cravings. When excessive calorie counting can lead to relapse, it is essential to do what you can to maintain a healthy, positive mindset. Activities such as yoga and meditation can help you be present at the moment and better analyze your feelings about hunger and triggers.
Keep a Journal
Depending on your personal goals and aftercare program, keeping a journal may help you stay on track. You can use your journal to ensure you are consuming enough calories to maintain healthy weight goals. It is essential to note that this method may not work for everyone and if you find monitoring calorie intake to be stressful or triggering, talk to your therapy provider.
Get Enough Sleep
It is estimated that healthy adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. Although these numbers change as we get older, a solid night’s sleep is essential to overall health and well-being for everyone. that said, many people do not get enough sleep. It is well known that not getting enough sleep can lead to irregular eating patterns or consumption of foods with higher caloric values in search of higher energy levels. Also, lack of sleep can affect the hormones that control your appetite. Having a regular sleep schedule can help ensure that maintaining a regular calorie intake is easier.
Stick to a Routine
If you are in recovery and monitoring your calories to ensure you continue to eat healthy, adhering to a routine can be beneficial. It is likely that during treatment, with the help of your therapist, you developed a routine around meals and snacks. Maintaining this routine after treatment has ended can help you stay on track. It is not uncommon for those who eat on an irregular schedule to reach for quick, mostly unfulfilling foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition, hindering your healthy eating goals.
Participate in a Support Group
There is a multitude of eating disorder recovery support groups available in many cities across the nation. Participation in a support group does not have to end upon the completion of treatment. On the contrary, ongoing participation in support groups can help you continue to interact with a group of like-minded peers who share similar concerns and could help provide advice or guidance for new and healthy ways to navigate stressful situations or triggering events surrounding food.
Increase Your Water Intake
Water can help you feel fuller. Not to mention your body is almost 80% water, and hydration is essential to maintaining vital body functions such as digestion, bowel movements, and blood pressure. Staying hydrated can also prevent urges to eat as you feel full. Making an effort to drink water before and between meals can help reduce food intake, helping you maintain a healthy calorie intake.
Eat More Fiber
Like water, fiber can be filling. Fibrous foods can help to convince your body that you were full despite eating smaller portions. Fiber also helps your body to process food properly and increases motility in your digestive system. This can help ensure that you are “regular” and reduce feelings of bloat and discomfort sometimes associated with certain foods.
Avoid Triggering People or Situations
Triggers are common and sometimes hard to avoid, especially if you are trying to maintain a healthy calorie intake. This is especially true if you are in recovery from disordered eating. Regardless of where you are in recovery, events such as work parties, family gatherings, or the holidays can create a challenge. If possible, avoid these situations or bring someone along to help you if triggers become overwhelming.
Contact Your Therapy Provider
If you find it challenging to maintain a healthy calorie intake during recovery, reach out to your therapy provider at Meadowglade or seek out a support group. Either of these options can provide you the opportunity to seek support during stressful times. You will also have a chance to learn and practice new, safer coping techniques to help continue your recovery journey. No matter where you are in your recovery journey, the support of those who share similar goals with you can always help.
Disordered eating impacts the lives of many each year. Without comprehensive treatment, the physical and psychological effects can be wide-reaching. In some cases, the medical challenges brought about by disordered eating can lead to long-lasting difficulties. Seeking treatment at a treatment center like Meadowglade can help you defeat the physical and emotional challenges related to disordered eating. Our individually designed treatment programs are designed to treat the whole person using traditional, evidence-based models and alternative therapies to create a holistic program. Disordered eating, if left untreated, can be dangerous and life-threatening. Although early treatment has proven to be the most successful, at Meadowglade, we understand the decision to go to therapy is challenging. Let our caring and compassionate staff help you take the essential first step towards a life free of the struggles of disordered eating. Reach out to our admissions staff today.