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Getting Through An Eating Disorder?

I just got the mental blow of my life a few days ago when my doctor used the phrase "eating disorder" to explain my problem... at first I was in a bit of denial and was acting like it was no big deal but it has finally sunk in, I now feel scared and ashamed. 

Even though I am at a normal weight and I eat 3 meals a day - I have an eating disorder. He explained to me that my eating disorder wasn't to be associated with anorexia or bulimia - but it is rather a selective eating disorder and has nothing to do with my body image but more with my brain's wiring. I've been an extremely picky eater since I was a child but I guess my mother always ensured that I was getting enough good food into me even though I didn't eat anything near a balanced diet.

I've been living on my own for a year and a half now and it has just been a train wreck health wise. It was almost a year ago exactly that I almost collapsed from chest pains, shortly after that my doctor discovered that I had both high blood pressure and anemia. Since I was at a normal weight he just gave me an iron supplement and some blood pressure meds and sent me on my way for a year. I had honestly thought that my health had improved over that time since I feel fine but on Thursday he seemed livid that I haven't realized that something is still wrong.

My blood work showed that I wasn't eating anything of substance, he said that on the surface it all seems fine but I have no reserves if anything goes wrong. 

We went over my diet and he was shocked that anyone would eat such a restricted diet. For breakfast I either have a plain bagel or cereal with my tea, the next time I eat is at lunch where it is usually pasta or fries, then my pre-supper snack is granola bars or chips and then my supper is usually pasta again (occasionally I have meat and potatoes). I hate to admit it but I used to snack on marshmallows and pudding but eliminated those and moved up to granola bars and kettle cooked chips.

He then went and listed off countless foods to find out if I had tried them or liked them. Most foods he listed (produce, meat, fish) resulted in myself explaining that I have tried them and felt repulsed by either their texture or flavour. Many times I retried them thinking I would like them again (like yogurt, strawberries, fish, etc.) but I found myself gagging once it was in my mouth. There were some times in the past where I actually vomited when I forced myself to eat something.

We then went through the list of the better foods I can stomach (pasta, tomato juice+soup, mushroom soup, bread, apples, celery, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, broccoli, steak, chicken, turkey) and he said that if I can try to focus on eating the protein and produce on a daily basis I could show improvement. It would of course be easier if I had a wider range of foods I could actually eat but he worries that with the limited options that I will be pushed back towards filling myself with carbs. He switched my iron pills to a multivitamin supplement and will review my improvement 6 months from now.

To a normal person it sounds easy enough to eat meats and vegetables on a daily basis but to me it seems like a terrifying mountain to climb. I've never had much of an appetite for these foods and I can't see myself eating multiple servings a day! I've bought some chicken and potatoes for supper tomorrow night along with eggs for breakfast, apples for snacking and pasta with tomato soup for lunch - but this is just one day. To get through the week I will need a variety of meals or else I'll turn to pasta for both lunch and supper again. I do plan on continuing to try new foods in hopes something will get added to my options but it is unlikely.

There is another hurdle I also worry about in the event I do find a way to eat healthier - I worry we cannot afford it. We can only spend $300 per month on groceries and what gets us through is cheap processed foods that we can stock up on. After today I find it unbelievable that we can afford to have meat for dinner every night or that we'll always have fresh produce I can eat in the house. It scares me that we could end up losing the unhealthy food but not being able to afford enough healthy food to get us through each week. 

So I don't know if anyone has any advice on how I can stretch my limited diet into a maintainable healthy lifestyle as well as how I can stretch our limited grocery budget so that we aren't going hungry as a result!

Re: Getting Through An Eating Disorder?

  • I'm really sorry you've had to go through this reveal, and then be more or less left on your own to fix it. Seems like your doctor could be doing more to help. Have you maybe considered seeing a nutritionist?
    My concern about your plan here is that you seem to be prepared to go straight from your "old" diet -- the one that caused you problems -- into your "new" diet, with the nutrients your doctor has told you to aim for.
    With the issues you have with some foods -- texture and flavor -- my concern is that you'll go through a week with this method and, if you have a negative response, you'll turn hard back to your old diet. Which is not your fault, obviously, but I think it might be safer to ease yourself into it.
    Set a goal for yourself. Try a new meal each day. Start with one "safe meal," from your old diet, per day, to help any potential anxiety about jumping into something completely new. Maybe have something you're familiar with -- cereal -- for breakfast, but have a piece of fruit on the side. Or add veggies to your pasta.
    These are all just suggestions, but they may help to ease the anxiety of trying new foods when you have a history of difficulty in this matter.
    Question -- have you ever tried beans, or lentils? They are a relatively cheap, but versatile, source of protein. If you haven't tried them before, maybe put them on your list to try?
    Something else -- my husband and I used to eat a lot of processed foods, but in the last year, we switched to healthy foods, and most of our purchases are fresh produce now. We've cut our grocery bill by $40 doing this. Buying healthy is definitely sustainable, as long as you also buy smart. If you find some produce you can eat reliably, it might actually help your budget.

    I hope some of this is of help. Just know that you're not alone!

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