There are many messages in the media and common culture that can be condensed into the single phrase “you are what you eat.” I challenge the idea that “you are what you eat.” Many eating disorder patients internalize the concept of becoming what they eat and take it to an extreme. People with eating disorders are afraid that if they eat a food with a high fat content, like French fries or chips, they will be fat. Foods with high fat and sugar contents, in moderation, are not bad for you. Yes, we use and incorporate nutrients from our food into our bodies, but that does not mean there is a one-to-one correlation between eating a hamburger and drinking a non-diet soda every now and then and becoming obese and/or diabetic.
I used to be afraid of foods that are high in fat and/or sugar. If I ate a candy bar, I was certain I was doomed to become diabetic. If I ate chips, I could see the fresh cellulite popping out on my legs within minutes. If I ate a cookie, I felt the need to restrict lunch and/or dinner to cancel out the toxic calories I had consumed. All of those are disordered thoughts. Candy, chips, and cookies, among other similar foods, do not have the fearful effects in real-time, just like you will not see your muscles bulging the instant you take in extra protein.
Yes, there is an increase in the incidence of obesity and diabetes in the US that merits new ways and waves of thinking. The problem is that people with eating disorders take in the weight loss and healthful eating messages that are designed for treating obesity and diabetes when we instead need practice on how to eat a cookie without it ruining the day.
On a related note, I am glad that my list of fear foods has diminished compared to when I entered treatment. Ice cream was still a challenge food for me even after I discharged from the eating disorder program. However, it was Ben’s birthday this last weekend and I got him a cookie dough ice cream cake from Cold Stone to celebrate. Many people in the shopping center where I picked up the cake commented on how lucky my boyfriend is that I would treat him to such a tasty surprise. And, my new self is able to agree with them; the cake tasted amazing and my body does not feel like ice cream or cake!