Responsible eating

We hear a lot about intuitive eating. The premise is one of those "simple but not easy" things.

Eat what you really want.
Eat when you're hungry.
Stop when you're full.
Move your body for fun.

And I do think it's a wonderful goal for recovery. Your ability to do these things (without guilt) is a fine indicator of recovery. See also the pizza test.


However, those of us with histories of eating disorders have a neurochemical difference that makes true intuitive eating kind of dicey at times. There are times when I might not be hungry, when I don't "feel" like eating. True intuitive eating would say to honor your body's signals. But for those of us who find starvation soothing, this might not be the best option.

Enter responsible eating.

My psychiatrist in my last round of residential treatment used an intuitive eating approach. We all had a required amount of calories to eat each day. Unlike many places, we didn't have exchanges, and we didn't even know the range.* This was to help the transition to intuitive eating.

But she also said something to me during one of our sessions (when I had a cold and was griping about having to eat when I wasn't hungry) that really stuck with me. "You might not have the luxury of practicing true intuitive eating all the time. You need to be responsible."

When I had the flu earlier this year, I flat-out didn't want to eat. And even when I did, I was often to tired and achy and ick to actually prepare something. With a horrific sore throat, I ended up eating a lot of these high calorie ice cream sandwiches sold in the party store down the street (they had a chocolate chip cookie on each end- yum!). I knew I needed to eat, swallowing was a bugger, but I couldn't make something myself. Without this insight, I probably would have gone right back to bed and to hell with eating. Yet because of my history, I knew this was the fast track to relapse.

Responsible eating.

Then there are times when looks a little different. I visited the zoo in Chicago with a good friend of mine, and we had decided to eat lunch there. Which was fine. The place we found had some yummy looking curly fries and that was really what I felt like having. With a late breakfast, I wasn't profoundly hungry and guessed the fries would have been more than enough, especially given the huge portion. But I also knew that I needed protein to hold me over until dinner. I know I could have ordered the fries as a side, but I'm not going to pay $5 for something and throw half of it out. Nuh-uh. So I searched the menu for the protein-containing item that sounded the best.

It's a dance, learning how to eat again. I'm a terrible dancer. My sense of rhythm is minimal at best. And this kind of dance isn't any easier, but I'm learning.

*Unless you're a veteran calorie counter, through which you have a pretty good idea. But it's the thought that counts.

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KC Elaine said...

I really like this concept of "responsible eating"

Anonymous said...

Me too!

carrie said...

Thanks. I like that it still keeps the principles of intuitive eating while also recognizing a person's inherent risk factors from embracing intuitive eating 100% of the time.

Manda Overboard said...

Hey, Carrie - I want to thank you for making such a well-written and frank website. I have on rare occasions found myself dabbling in stupid obsessions over food and weight, and the temptation to go further sometimes flicks its head about (especially living in a country where most people around me are so often smaller all over than I am). Anyway, I really appreciate a sane voice at these times, so I was pleased to happen across your blog. It's so interesting and useful!

That's all. Thanks, and truly, well done!

carrie said...


Why thank you! I'm quite touched. I started this blog more for just myself, to get my thoughts down and out there. I was quite sick of being told what to think about eating disorders and recovery. So I'm always pleasantly surprised when people say they like my blog.

Libby said...

Amen! Great post!

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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