Each week, we ask our Orri Instagram community for their food and recovery questions to put to our specialist dietetics team.
Here are their latest answers.
1) Why am I craving chocolate biscuits so much?
Cravings in recovery are not uncommon. They can arise if a certain food type, or a specific food item – in your case chocolate biscuits, has been restricted from your diet for a period of time. ‘Fun foods’ – whether it is a chocolate biscuit, a baked good, or a pudding, are an excellent source of energy and ensure that some fat and sugar are incorporated into the diet. These are also essential and beneficial nutrients and should be included daily.
When certain foods are restricted, not only the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein), but also micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) can be lacking from your diet. As these are essential, your body will let you know when they are missing – that is when cravings arise! Craving chocolate biscuits is your body’s way of letting you know what it needs.
Think whether chocolate biscuits, or sweet foods in general, are something that you have restricted from your diet.
- Did you used to enjoy these types of foods?
- Have you been removing them from your diet?
- Are you eating enough, and regularly? When dietary intake is restricted, cravings will also arise.
- Are you following your cravings? Why not have a chocolate biscuit with a cup of tea for your morning snack?
Cravings are also likely to arise in the afternoon, around 3-4pm, as this is when your blood glucose levels would drop following lunch. That’s why an afternoon snack is an important part of a recovery meal plan. Incorporate snacks such as brownies, flapjacks, chocolate cookies, a granola bar or a chocolate bar and see how this will affect your cravings.
2) What are your tips to stop getting ‘addicted’ to one type of food in Anorexia Nervosa recovery?
The desire to eat the same food or a small range of foods in recovery is a common problem. Specific foods will become both familiar and safe, and the feelings that accompany the food (physical and emotional) feel manageable. The fear of branching out and eating foods which are not part of your usual repertoire can create fear and uncertainty. Recovery is about freedom and flexibility around food so there is a constant need to challenge what you eat. Try some of these tips to avoid becoming stuck:
- Identify foods you would like to include – maybe think about your favourite prior to having an eating disorder
- Plan ahead and create a meal plan
- Incorporate new foods into you plan whilst holding on to some of your usual foods.
- Try changing brands and flavours of food as a step towards making bigger changes
- Pace yourself and take it slowly
- Once you have incorporated a new food make sure you repeat in every few days so that it becomes more familiar
- Find a way of holding yourself accountable by sharing your intentions with someone else
- Seek support when you introduce a new food and ask someone to join you whilst you challenge yourself
- Celebrate your successes however small they may feel – every positive choice is a step towards recovery
3) I would like snack ideas for my recovery with Anorexia Nervosa. What would you recommend?
Snacks are very important in recovery. They ensure that you follow a regular eating pattern and provide you with energy mid-morning and in the afternoon, improving concentration and decreasing tiredness and irritability. As mentioned previously, recovery is about freedom and flexibility around food so there is a constant need to challenge foods which feel new or unfamiliar. It is good to vary your snack choices, giving yourself the room to try new things.
What snacks you are having will greatly depend on where you are in your recovery, and what feels manageable at the moment. If you are only beginning to incorporate snacks into your meal plan, having a fruit or a yoghurt can be a good start. If not, a morning snack can be a biscuit (chocolate digestive, hobnob, a biscuit from a selection pack) or a granola bar.
In the afternoon, consider reaching for a baked good – banana bread, piece of cake, scone, brownie, a flapjack. Make something yourself, get a snack from a supermarket bakery section, or go out to a café!
Alternatively, consider having a chocolate bar or a granola bar: Eat Natural Bar, Trek bar, Kind bar, Snickers, one of Cadbury’s chocolate bars, Picnic, KitKat, Kinder Bueno, etc.
4) How do you define a binge?
A binge can be described in two ways. It is a very individual experience and what might be considered a binge by one person, might not be perceived that way by another.
An objective binge eating disorder is described as ‘eating, in a discrete period of time, an amount of food that is larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances’. This episode of eating is accompanied by a sense of lack of control over what or how much one is eating.
A binge can also be characterised by eating much quicker than usually, eating until uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry, eating in secrecy, and feelings of shame or guilt.
However, your experience is important and valid whether what you experience matches these criteria, or not. This is what’s called a subjective binge. Often, the amount of food eaten during a subjective binge is not larger than what other people would have, but it is, or feels like, significantly more than you would usually have, or includes foods which you would normally restrict.
If you are struggling with binge eating and it is causing you distress, it is really important to seek out support. Your experience is valid even if it does not match the definition. Perhaps, looking over our Recovering from Binge Eating Disorder workbook could be useful.
If you had any food based questions for your recovery, make sure to check in with Orri’s Dietetics team every Friday. All questions will be shared and answered anonymously through Instagram.
Alternatively, if you would like support or wanted to get in touch with us, you are welcome to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the form below.