Truly going “all in” – normal grocery stores, processed food, and up 40 lbs
I’m sitting here with a bowl of instant ramen.
While the water was boiling I held the package, bright green plastic crinkling in my hands.
There must have been 30 ingredients. Mostly things I couldn’t pronounce. MSG. Flavorings. Chemicals.
And I watched as my mind wanted to freak the fuck out and I said this is actually going to make us healthier.
This is what we need to take care of ourselves right now.
And I felt it land, truth, deep within my body.
It does to me too.
Actually, to the part of my mind that has been obsessed with “healthy” foods for most of my life, it feels downright dangerous and insane.
I talked to an eating disorder recovery specialist a few days ago.
It’s taken me almost 4 months to give eating disorders my attention. It happened mostly because people who follow me kept writing, messaging me about my food journey, saying, “This sounds a lot like my eating disorder recovery.”
When I think of myself having an eating disorder I think of myself as I was at 19, going on one “healthy” diet after another – vegan, gluten-free, macrobiotic, food combining, etc etc – and think about how I barely ate anything except for some veggies and fruit and brown rice.
That was the time I had an eating disorder. I knew the obsession with healthy foods was called orthorexia.
I actually realized I had a problem and went to a therapist for the first time in my life at 19, and I said, “I think I have orthorexia.”
She didn’t really know what it was, and she said, no, that’s not an eating disorder. I think you have anxiety.
Looking back on that I actually wonder what would have happened if she understood. But she didn’t, and we focused on anxiety, and I started eating all foods again, and I felt like I had healed it.
But now I look back on my twenties and I see it popping up all over the place. My avoidance and paranoia of processed foods. My obsession with organic, not wanting to eat something if it wasn’t organic. Starving rather than breaking my rules. My years of gluten and dairy-free diets, feeling like that was healthy because everywhere seemed to accommodate it so easily. In 2020 I did a few months of keto and then an entire year of extremely low carb. I was paranoid of sugar. I didn’t want even a drop of it in anything I ate.
And I thought I was so superior for this. Everybody knows sugar is bad. I thought I was being healthy.
I also laughed at people with so-called “sugar addiction.” I had zero problem with sugar. I didn’t even want it.
Four months ago when I started this entire journey I thought it was a journey into eating some more food than I had been eating. I did not think I had an eating disorder and I did not think I restricted myself. I did not think I would gain weight.
I thought it would be a fun foray into healing my hormones by eating dairy and organ meats and tropical fruit and sugar (yeah, did you know every cell of your body literally runs on sugar to function and if you don’t have enough sugar your body goes into stress mode and has to use its own tissues to survive? I didn’t. Except for in the keto world where this is somehow seen as a good thing. Until you actually learn the biology).
I found Jessica Ash who explains this super beautifully.
But I found all my food rules kicking up again. Everything she said was not the best food for hormonal health my brain turned into “you cannot have even a touch of this in your food ever.” I felt so hungry and I felt like it was so difficult to eat as much as I was hungry for. I was trying to follow all of the new food rules and I started to feel as stressed as ever about eating.
I still really love Jessica Ash and I think if you don’t have a tendency toward disordered eating that she is a wonderful incredible resource. But I started to realize that I might have another issue to address first.
As I read “The Fuck It Diet” and started to research eating disorders I noticed that all of this really resonated with me.
I didn’t feel like I could fully go “all in” with my eating because I was worried that if I did I was doing something dangerous for my health. And it didn’t seem possible to get enough food following all of the rules.
And I started to wonder if maybe this was a problem.
You may have seen my posts about donuts and doritos and what it would mean to start adding in some of the foods I was afraid of.
And I started to do that. And it was both fun and challenging.
Because I was still worried that somehow I was doing something wrong. I was still not eating enough, I knew, because I was still constantly hungry and sometimes taking a while to eat when I was so hungry. I oscillated between thinking the donuts were fine and then thinking “but this can’t really be healthy, everybody knows donuts aren’t healthy, I am going to ruin my health.”
And then earlier this week I had to go into a “normal” grocery store and I felt myself panic and almost go into a complete freeze.
See, up until this point I had either been ordering delivery or I had been shopping at Whole Foods. Where I have always shopped.
I honestly think the amount of times I have entered a regular grocery store in the past decade is less than 20.
I don’t do it. My brain thinks only people who eat shitty food shop there. There are no healthy foods in a non-health-food store.
To my mind.
And when I realized how afraid I felt of buying my food in a normal grocery store I realized that this is still really a problem.
A couple days ago I had a call with an eating disorder specialist named Tabitha Farrar.
I found her blog last week and I devoured it. She had anorexia and yet it deeply spoke to me.
And my call with her felt like the most validating thing I have done so far.
She was like, it sounds like you are still restricting.
Tabitha has a ton of resources about the details about eating disorders and how they are biological and genetic and all the things. And I don’t want to go into that here because it’s again not really my specialty – you can go to her site to explore there if you feel called.
But basically it all boiled down to – underneath orthorexia, even though it masks as “being healthy,” there is still a deep fear of weight gain. And the only way to heal it is to rewire the fear of weight gain. And the only way to do that is to teach your brain that no foods are a problem because you aren’t afraid of weight gain.
“Break all of your food rules,” she said.
I was like… you are saying I can eat as much Tostitos queso dip as I want?
Yes! She said.
And I was like… but not for a meal, right? Like I should still eat a balanced meal.
“That’s a belief,” she said.
She explained that my body has felt like it has been in a famine for a long long time and in order to teach it that it is no longer in a famine it needs to eat a shitload of food. It needs to overeat to make up for the time it spent undereating. It needs to gain weight. It needs to learn that food is not something to be obsessed with or paranoid about.
And it finally really landed for the first time that if I am going to eat enough calories I have to eat heavily processed food.
In the past 24 hours I have discovered what feels like a miraculous magical thing – fast food.
I agree with you. I think it is the worst thing ever.
And also there is a tiny part of me that doesn’t. Because today and last night I was easily able to eat 1000 calories in one meal without stuffing my stomach so full of whole foods that it was extremely bloated all day from the difficulty of digestion.
I had a lunch of chicken nuggets and pink lemonade and it was easily 900 calories or so and I didn’t feel like my belly was going to burst in half.
Do you know how hard it is to eat 900 calories of healthy organic whole foods at once?? It’s really hard. Especially when an hour later you feel starving again but your stomach feels like it will explode.
Tabitha said in one of her YouTube videos, it’s actually unkind in recovery to try to make your body eat an apple. To do all this digestion work to get a couple calories. It’s starving. What it needs is super easily accessible carbs and fats.
My mind really is afraid that if I eat all processed food I will end up dull and depressed and disease-ridden and full of acne and basically just feel like complete shit all the time.
Oh, and you know what’s underneath that?
A deep deep fear of being fat.
The secret feeling underneath that is “I will be fat and gross and only disgusting fat people eat that food.”
Something that has been pretty wild on this journey is watching the emotions that surface the more I eat.
The memories that appear the more I eat.
This week I was freewriting in my journal – when you just dump without stopping – and a sentence I wrote that took me by surprise was “I don’t want to be fat on the beach.” And then I wrote “I don’t want to be a whale on the beach.”
And then all of a sudden it hit and I could hear my family giggling with me on the beach, pointing out a fat person, saying “beached whale!!!”
My childhood was full of fat jokes.
Honestly. Poop and fat. The things I remember talking about and laughing about most. One of my family members had a fat friend and that was how we referred to her behind her back – the fat friend. I remember not being able to understand why anyone would be friends with someone who was fat.
We made up dances with pillows under our shirts. We pointed out fat people in restaurants. People’s body parts that were fat were made fun of constantly.
“Fat” was a funny thing.
As I got older I of course realized this wasn’t polite or socially acceptable and I tried to rewire my own beliefs about fat people by following fat-positive people on Instagram. I felt like I had examined my beliefs about it.
I had not.
What I am realizing is that actually pretty much our entire society has a deep fear of fat. Fat must mean unhealthy (guess what! It doesn’t.)
I have heard from so many people following my journey that it has been triggering them over and over again because they are realizing they would not be ok at all with gaining weight.
It is wild to watch my body shift into all the ways I was taught were disgusting and make-fun-able as a child.
I am like, “Do I have fat arms now?” “Does everybody think I’m lazy?” “My thighs are covered in cellulite – is this gross?”
And I’m struck by the dissonance between how GOOD it FEELS to BE in this body as opposed to the way my mind thinks it should feel.
I feel fucking great.
My boobs feel full and amazing. I walk around with ease. I am happy WAY more than I ever was day-to-day. My moods are much more balanced. I have more energy. My butt and my belly and my thighs feel soft and nice to touch.
I have had some moments of feeling really swollen but it’s happening less now. It first hurt when my thighs started rubbing but now I have found solutions. There are some movements where my belly gets in the way (like trying to do a regular child’s pose, for example).
But honestly I feel happier and healthier than I have ever felt. My hands are much chubbier and they LOOK healthier. They look like this is how they are supposed to look if I hadn’t been so worried about having fat hands.
And that is notably different than how society told me I look and would feel if I gained 40 lbs (yes, close to 40 now).
It is different than my conditioning about being “overweight.” (according to who?)
It has been really really really hard for me to uncover and admit that I have fear of weight gain.
But of course I do.
How could I not have a fear of weight gain when all I heard my entire life was how the worst thing ever possible to be was fat?
While I was on the call with Tabitha I was like, “It feels so hard to eat the amount of food I have to eat to feel full. Do you have any suggestions?”
She was like, “You seem pretty smart. I think you can figure it out.”
I have just started to discover that she is right.
It is not actually that hard to eat enough to be full when I do not have any food rules.
After eating McDonald’s twice in the past 24 hours I said to Jordan, I am ready to go to the normal grocery store.
And we went, tonight.
And we went through the store and I filled the cart with every single thing that I could remember from my childhood that I used to love eating that I hadn’t let myself touch in a decade.
Chips Ahoy. Coca Cola. Ramen. Gushers. Cheez-Its. Pudding. Instant oatmeal. Birthday cake. Bagels and cream cheese.
There were many tears. Many moments where I had to stop in the middle of the store to tell Jordan a memory. To give him a hug for being so incredibly supportive of me.
We filled the cart. No “balanced meals” in sight. Nothing I had to cook. No barriers to just finally eating enough calories.
While writing this I ate a dinner of ramen and spring rolls. I will probably finish it with some orange soda and strawberry wafers.
I have felt so filled with joy today. Because I feel FULL.
Before you ask, no, I am not trying to tell you these foods are the “healthiest” options. (Though actually, they ARE healthiest for my body in this moment, because my body needs easy calories).
This phase doesn’t last forever. Once my body understands it is no longer in a famine the extreme hunger will lower.
And once I rewire the fear of weight gain and fear of different foods – meaning once I eat this way long enough to really deeply thoroughly believe that these foods aren’t bad and that gaining weight isn’t bad – my body will start to crave more whole foods again.
I trust my body.
All signs point to me being HEALTHIER than I was 4 months ago.
Something I have found really beautiful about this entire journey is that it feels like the next piece I need to know just drops in whenever I am ready for it.
I haven’t felt like “I” am the one “figuring it out.”
It feels really held. It feels like I am led to the next true thing and I just follow it.
I’ll be honest with you part of my mind thinks this is the fucking worst idea ever of all time.
But that is the same part of my mind that is like – look at your fat arms! You are going to become diseased! Nobody will love you anymore!
That is not the truth and it does not live in my body.
So here I go, down the next leg of this journey.
Finally feeling really ready to go completely “all in.”
If you liked this piece, you might also enjoy:
– I’ve gained 30 lbs – feeding myself fully & trusting my hunger
– Food & ice cream & weight gain & nourishment (the beginning)
– Feeling like I ruined my body & having more than enough
– Donuts & doritos & crossing 160: going “out of control”
– My podcast (where I tell other stories about this journey not written here!)