Anorexia Recovery Challenges

I have done a few anorexia recovery challenges and had a few anorexia recovery wins the last couple of weeks. Most of these anorexia recovery challenges and wins were not planned, they just happened. I found myself in some anorexia challenge situations. These could have resulted in me doing my usual, anorexic rule behaviour, or doing the opposite. A recovery behaviour. So I did the opposite. I hadn’t set out to do these, to deliberately do anorexia recovery challenges. In the natural flows of life, they just occurred. And I did them. So I thought I would share them with you.

1. Weight gain & not restricting

Now this one doesn’t really feel like a win. I have gained a little bit of weight recently. It wasn’t planned or intentional, it just kind of happened. I don’t like it. But then, does anybody actually like gaining weight? I have seen a lot of people in anorexia recovery portraying a very positive and happy exterior around weight gain. That is not what it has been like for me. I have always hated it. And this recent weight gain has been no different.

So it doesn’t feel like a recovery win because it causes so much stress, anxiety and hatred to myself and body. And believe me, I am feeling all of these right now. But the anorexia recovery challenge is to stick with it. Resist the temptation to restrict and trying to lose the gained weight. It is incredibly hard. But I am doing it. Probably the biggest anorexia recovery challenge that I, and many others, face. Dealing with weight gain.

The thoughts are there – to try and get back to where I was a few weeks ago. But I am not letting my behaviours follow my thoughts. Yes, it feels VERY uncomfortable. But I just have to do it. I am eating the same, I am exercising the same, I am not restricting in any way to lose the weight. As difficult as it is, I am tolerating it. Tolerating weight gain is a huge anorexia recovery challenge. And I am doing it.

2. Going out for dinner – No compensating or calorie counting

This one is two anorexia recovery challenges in one event. I went out for dinner with a friend earlier this week. Often when I have been out for dinner, I go to restuarants where it displays calorie content. This way, I can ‘fit’ my dinner into my daily calorie allowance. There was a time several years ago when I would ONLY eat in restuarants with displayed calories. But the past couple of years I have been able to challenge this. I had progressed my recovery to the point where I could eat in restuarants without displayed calories. But because of Covid and not having eaten out for a very long time, the temptation was to go somewhere safe where I could see the calories.

However, I am so fed up and tired of eating numbers. I want to go out for dinner and eat dinner, not a number. So that is what I did. Start up again as I mean to go on. I went to the pub restaurant with my friend, picked a meal from the menu, and ate it as my dinner. No numbers involved.

But the bigger anorexia recovery challenge with this event was to try and not compensate my intake earlier or later in the day. I have never really been able to do this. Going out for dinner, I would normally always eat a smaller, or no lunch, to compensate for the dinner out. Or, I would have a smaller evening snack. Going out for dinner earlier this week was no different – I planned on not eating my lunch to compensate for the dinner.

My mum queried why I wasn’t having my lunch and I explained to her – I couldn’t have lunch because I was going out for dinner. She told me to not be ridiculous and to have my lunch. And do you know what, she was right. It is ridiculous to not eat lunch because you are going to a restaurant to eat your dinner. Food is food, meals are meals. I was going out for dinner and this DID NOT mean I was not allowed to eat my lunch, that I would normally always have eaten. I also really wanted to eat my lunch because I enjoy it. And why should I have to deprive myself of lunch because anorexia tells me that I can’t have it because of eating dinner out? So I took on this anorexia recovery challenge.

I ate my lunch, same as normal with no restriction. I went out for dinner and ate my meal (no numbers included). When I came home, I ate my evening snack with no restriction. A huge recovery win for me.

3. Forgetting the exercise bike

This is another anorexia recovery win that has never happened before and was not planned. I go for a walk every day. Over the years, I have been able to reduce the amount that I walk, and the rigidity with which I walk. Normally now, I walk from anything between 20-40 minutes. However, when I walk with my mum, if we walk for less than 40 minutes, I make up the rest of the time on my exercise bike. This is a very gentle cycle which I do whilst reading my book. Don’t ask me why I only do this after walking with my mum and not when I walk alone, because I don’t know. It’s just one of those stupid rules the eating disorder has developed.

Anyway, earlier this week, I went for a walk with my mum. We walked for 20 minutes so I planned on making up the rest of the time on my bike in the afternoon. As I was my eating my dinner at around 8pm, it suddenly hit me. Oh my god I haven’t been on the bike!!! I panicked! What on earth is wrong with me? How could I have forgotten?

My head instantly told me to get on the bike and do the time I needed. But did I actually want to? At 8 o’clock in the evening, half way through my dinner, did I want to go and sit on the exercise bike? I certainly did not. But could I deal with the guilt, stress and anxiety for not doing so? I was going to take on this anorexia recovery challenge and find out.

I decided that I would not allow myself on the bike – I had to fight that urge. So I ended up with another big recovery win! And the fact that I had actually forgotten about going on the bike during the day is also another recovery win. I would never have previously forgotten as it would always have been too important to me. But obviously now, it is of much less importance and I am able to think about, and do other things, and forget my exercise rule.

It did play on my mind for a few days afterwards. The temptation was there to do more walking to make up for the time lost on that previous day. But I didn’t. And here I am now, several days later and I am not giving it any thought. I survived less exercise, the world didn’t come to an end, an unplanned anorexia recovery challenge completed!

4. Restaurant meal on holiday

I went away in the UK on holiday for a few nights a couple of weeks ago with my mum. A nice little staycation. Whilst away, I completed an anorexia recovery challenge. I did actually want and plan to do this one. But I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to actually get myself to do it. Until this year, whenever I have stayed away somewhere, I have always bought the same food from a nearby supermarket. I would construct myself a salad with some chicken. But I don’t enjoy doing this and I want to be able to go away and not have to build my own dinners in the hotel.

The first time I did this anorexia recovery challenge was a few months ago, in the summer. I actually wrote a blog and did a vlog about it which you can read and/or watch here:

Blog: A New Job & Eating a Takeaway

Vlog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWcUvMM_4B8

So this little trip away with my mum a few weeks ago, I repeated this challenge. Because the thing with anorexia recovery challenges is, you have to keep repeating them so that they don’t feel so challenging. I progressed my challenge on this recent trip away.

I have only done this challenge on two occasions before, and both of those times I had Nando’s. But there was not a Nando’s in the local area where we were staying. So I had to have a different meal. For two nights we were there, I went across to the restaurant opposite and ordered a takeaway to take back to my room. I just chose a meal, off the menu, no calorie counting involved, and ate it. And I really enjoyed it. It felt so nice to be able to go on holiday and just order food from a restaurant.

On one of the nights, my mum didn’t fancy a meal from the restaurant so she got herself something from the supermarket. But I still took on the anorexia recovery challenge myself. I still had the meal from the restaurant. We don’t need permission from other people to have certain food. Just because my mum didn’t want it, didn’t mean I couldn’t have it. What my mum eats has no effect on my body.

5. Eating porridge because I wanted it

I developed an eating disorder rule about when I can eat porridge for breakfast. Only in certain situations am I “allowed” to eat porridge. Over the past two weeks, those certain situations in which I can have porridge have not occurred. So I have not been allowed to eat porridge for my breakfast. But, there have been a couple of times when I have really wanted porridge.

My initial reaction to wanting porridge was that I can’t, because the circumstances don’t fit the required criteria. Anorexia’s required criteria. So when my mum asked me what I was having for breakfast, I said I would like porridge, but I can’t have it today because of it not being an ‘X, Y, Z’ day. She encouraged me to have the positive. I fought the battle in my head – I want it, I’m not allowed it, I would really like it, but it’s not that type of day, I wish I could have it, just have something else instead.

The battle was fought and anorexia was defeated. I ate the porridge simply because I wanted it. I have tackled this anorexia recovery challenge a couple of times over the past two weeks. It is still difficult to do, and that rule is still there. But I am slowly making that rule weaker by breaking it regularly.

It seems utterly ridiculous that we deprive ourselves of certain things that we want and that our body is craving, simply because we have an eating disorder rule about when we can have it, or if we are even allowed it at all. I am committed to continuing to break this porridge rule. I will continue to take on this anorexia food challenge. And I will reach the point where I have taken on this anorexia recovery challenge so much that it no longer feels challenging.

My Anorexia Recovery Challenges summary

So these are my recent anorexia recovery challenges. I would love to hear if you have had any eating disorder recovery challenges recently. I might be that, like me, some of these challenges were totally unplanned and just happened. Or you might have a list of challenges you want to take on. Either way, I would love for you to leave a comment and let me know. And hopefully, you can take inspiration from my challenges. If I can do it, I have every belief that you can take on some of your challenges too.

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Anorexia Recovery Challenges
Anorexia Recovery Challenges – Bex Quinlan

4 thoughts on “Anorexia Recovery Challenges”

  1. Well done Rebecca! I have so many rules that I try to break. Recently the rule that I cannot eat the same vegetables or fruits twice in a day. I have had banana in my porridge and banana in a fruit salade. Same with apple. Also greans beans in a salad for lunch and with roast chicken en potatoes for dinner! Challenge and repeat! Regards, Nicolet – The Netherlands xx

    1. That’s amazing! So pleased you have been able to start challenging that particular food rule around same fruit or veg in a day. Like you say, challenge and repeat does help to break these food rules we develop. Keep going! xx

  2. Great to hear about your successful challenges Rebecca, and Nicolet. I set myself two planned challenges this weekend. I had lunch out with a friend, without deciding on the restaurant first (so I couldn’t check the menu and plan) and not restricting later, not weighing out my pasta sauce to make sure I wasn’t having too much (just dolloping!). They both felt surprisingly easy whilst I was doing them, and afterwards, it was just the voice beforehand I had to quieten. As you say, it’s keeping on doing them that is key, as I often think ‘ok I’ve done that, don’t need to do it again’ which I know is the anorexic voice allowing me one day off, but don’t get used to it… I haven’t had unplanned challenges lately, although have thought they might be more useful for me, as I think anorexia lets me do one or two deviations, within my control, and the unplanned challenges definitely cause me more anxiety but also feel like bigger ‘wins’ long term. What do you think?

    1. Well done to you with some great challenges! It definitely is key to keep challenging – so many times I think I’ve broken the rule so don’t need to do it anymore but it does start to creep back in. I can definitely see the benefit in unplanned challenges. It is very easy to develop new rules when you start breaking rules which can happen with planned challenges. Maybe keep trying to do a bit of both? xx

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