Tip Day: Adding more variety to your diet

So I totally lost track of the fact that yesterday was Wednesday, and that Wednesday is Tip Day.  Also, my Netflix DVD of House Season One came in the mail, which may or may not have had something to do with yesterday's lack of posts.

Many people with eating disorders tend to eat a very regimented diet.  For me, I typically ate the same few things that caused the least amount of anxiety.  Outside of entering a structured treatment program, I had major difficulties learning to eat a wider variety of foods.  More often than not, I would sort of slide back into a pattern of eating the few same things.

Of course, some people like more food variety than others, but it's also important to eat sufficient variety of foods to get vitamin and mineral intake.  As well, the extreme lack of variety (I'm a creature of habit, and my diet isn't super-varied, but I do think pushing variety was a key part of my recovery) can keep you stuck in ED thoughts and habits.  Today's tips will deal with ways of increasing variety in your diet.

1. Think of it as a game.  One person I knew would only eat veggies of a certain color.  So her therapist had her make a color wheel, and she got a sticker every time she had a different colored fruit or vegetable.  After filling in all the different parts of the chart, she could treat herself to a prize. Yes, it's cheesy and can seem a little infantile, but it's important to remember that fun can be a part of this process.

2. Be a kid.  Look at foods not as "good" or "bad" or by evaluating their nutritional minutiae.  Instead ask yourself what looks interesting or tasty or fun to cook.

3. Try something new.  There are no expectations here.  You don't have to like what you've tried, you don't have to eat it all the time.  But it can be fun to experiment, and you might just find yourself enjoying something you didn't even know you liked.

4. Try something old.  For a while, I was hooked on treats from my childhood: Little Debbie stuff, that kind of thing.  After I tried some, they did lose a bit of their appeal as they were never quite as wonderful as I remembered.  Except the Nutty Bars.  Those things are awesome.  But trying these opened my eyes to many other new foods, and they made me more flexible and willing to try new/old things.

5. Be social.  Social situations can be very threatening for me, but at the same time, it can also be a good push to broaden my horizons.  If your friends order pizza and you normally get something different, that might be a good opportunity to try a slice of pizza.  It makes the experience much more normalized rather than dwelling on being that freaky person who doesn't eat pizza.

6. Stay accountable.  It's easy to say you're going to try something different, but it's not so easy to carry out.  Often, I would enter a situation intended to break the mold a little bit, but as it came time to actually decide, I would back down.  To get around that, I've occasionally had friends or family order for me, or remind me of my goal to order something on the menu besides the salad with grilled chicken.

Next week, I'm going to do tips on surviving Thanksgiving.  I hope you all enjoy!

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Emily said...

I needed to hear your tips on varied eating because the fear of any food besides a Luna bar keeps me trapped in ED's grasp. Luna bars are great, but I know that it's not the only food out there that I should allow myself to eat.

The trouble is knowing where to start. How do I begin adding foods to my day? What do I do after I have eaten the new food and ED is screaming at me to throw up because he knows that my anxiety will soar as long as this strange food is inside me?

I want to change so much, but I know that ED's grasp on me is too strong. I feel like I am constantly teetering on the edge and ED's rules keep some of the anxiety away.

I know I kind of poured a lot of my feelings out there. I admire your blog and your strength and will continue to look to you for courage.


I Hate to Weight said...

this is hard a one for me. i do eat pretty much the same thing every day(unless i go to someone's home, in which case, i eat what i'm served.)

my eating style does cause the least anxiety. i'm at a healthy weight that i like, but my body always wanted to be on the chubby side. by eating three meals from all three food groups (but pretty much the same lean, not too fatty foods), i can maintain a weight that i'm happy with. if i do start eating pizza and regular desserts and well "fattening" food, i do gain weight. i don't really miss pizza (i do eat it if i'm with a group), but i'd rather eat a turkey sandwich.

sorry, about all the rambling. you got me thinking. am i wrong to eat the way i do to maintain this weight i like (i'm pretty average weight) or do i eat across the board and gain weight, because that's probably the weight i should be? i'm going to have to think about this. thanks.

Special K said...

BEing social is key...looking at how other people eat without anxity or much judgement or too much is huge...
I am battling the "moderation" diet right now!
notcing how it DOES NOT APPLY TO ME!

Dana Udall-Weiner said...

So many great ideas here. I think it makes sense to eventually move away from "safe" food choices, to including different and even anxiety-provoking ones. I especially like your encouragement to get away from "good" and "bad" foods. This is something I talk to clients about every day, and it's really a challenge. But it can be seen as a great and thrilling adventure, too. Thanks for writing this!

hm said...

Carrie, you are amazing. If you are able to accomplish these tips for yourself, then your recovery is going well indeed. Right now it's scary enough to just accomplish the bare minimum requirements- adding in the anxieties of "new" and "risky" is not even on the radar. It is good to know where you have come from and see where you are now. Hope!

healthylova said...

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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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