Today I’m going to share some great tips and advice on how to start eating all of those challenging, triggering, “unsafe” and “bad” foods in recovery.
We often use the term "trigger foods" to describe the foods that we have difficulty eating normally. These are all of those “go-to” binge foods; you know the foods that you think are impossible to eat normally?
In the years that I suffered with bulimia, while I would pretty much eat anything during a binge, there were certainly some specific types of food that seemed to hold a great power over me.
While some people start to eat all foods from day 1 of recovery, many people find it easier to initially avoid eating certain triggering foods. Opting to eat “safe” foods until they feel more comfortable eating regularly.
This is certainly something that I decided to do for the first few weeks of my own recovery, just until I got into the swing of things.
While it's fine to avoid certain, more challenging foods at the start of recovery there has to come a time when you start to add more variety and balance back into your diet.To eat in a balanced way not only do you need to start eating balanced meals containing foods from all of the food groups but you also need to start re-introducing those triggering and challenging foods.
This is why reintroducing triggering foods, even the ones that you consider to be "un-healthy" or "bad" is such an important step to take in recovery.
The answer to this will be different for everyone. Some people prefer to eat trigger foods right from the start of recovery while others like to have a period of avoidance before reintroducing them. There is no specific amount of time that you should avoid your trigger and challenge foods for, but the questions below may help you to decide on a time of reintroduction that is right for you.
As a guide, you should be able to answer YES to most of these questions before you start reintroducing trigger foods:
It will take some getting used to. At first you may find that you want to eat these foods all of the time or that they awaken emotional binge urges. Don't worry, this is perfectly normal. In time your body will realize that there is nothing special about these foods and that you are not restricting them anymore.
When that happens you will no longer crave them in this way.
Remember initially you may also feel increased anxiety around these foods but try to persevere!
This simple 4 step guide will help you to plan for reintroducing your trigger and challenge foods:
This list should include all of the foods that you have avoided since starting recovery and any additional foods that you consider to be “binge foods”, “challenging foods”, “bad foods” and “triggering foods.”
It can be difficult to decide which of your trigger and challenge foods are the "safest" but usually there will be some foods that you feel would be far less challenging to start re-introducing.
You’ve got your list of foods so now it’s time to decide when and how you will start reintroducing them. Start with the first food from your list and consider the following:
You’ve decided which food you will reintroduce first, you've given a lot of thought to how and when you will do this so now it’s time to go for it! Work through your list reintroducing one food at a time. Making sure you follow steps 2 and 3 each time you do this.
Remember there is no time limit on this. You may find it a lot easier to reintroduce certain foods where as it could take you a couple of weeks or even a few months to feel really comfortable with reintroducing other foods.
The best advice is to stick with it, even if you find it difficult at first.
The most important thing you can do is to start seeing any slip-ups and relapses as learning experiences. You WILL learn how to successfully reintroduce ALL types of foods into your diet with time. Remember to be conscious of "all or nothing thinking."
If you find that reintroducing trigger and challenge foods is causing you to continually relapse then you have two choices.
1. The first choice is to go back to a small period of avoidance until you are feeling more confident in recovery.
2. The second choice is just to keep going. Keep developing your plans and strategies, keep learning from your relapses and keep pushing forwards through the harder days. If possible you should try to always opt for this choice.
I am aware that some recovery methods tell people that they’ll have to avoid certain foods for life in order to recover but then I look back on my own journey. In all respects I am a bulimia treatment success and I can now eat ANY type of food without feeling triggered. So I have to believe that every single person out there can find the same level of freedom and peace with food as I have done.
I really hope this information will help you to feel more confident about reintroducing those trigger foods!
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