A ‘thank you’ to oat flour.

This is a conversation about how making lateral moves with food helped me in my recovery from disordered eating.

When I started this blog (which coincided with the start of my recovery from disordered eating and exercise habits), I shared a lot of oat containing recipes.  I’ve gone back and deleted several of my very early blogging posts because I don’t even recognize the person I was then, now.  Over the years, I’ve made a plethora of oat recipes: oat flour and/or oats.  Allowing myself to eat / bake with oat flour eventually allowed me to be less fearful of baking with all flours.  That is because, for me, oat flour was a lateral move.  I went from not allowing myself to bake / eat many baked goods to allowing myself to bake (and eat!) oat flour recipes because my eating disorder told me oats were “safe” to eat.  

Lateral moves are when you choose an alternative food (that may make you a bit nervous) that is equivalent(ish) to a food you are comfortable eating.  Here are some examples of lateral moves…

So for me, my lateral move progression was: oat containing breakfasts –> to –> more dessert-y (yet super dry) oat flour breakfast –> to –> oat flour desserts (<–still modifying recipes for my ED with this one) –> to –> all-purpose flour desserts –> to –> store-bought or restaurant desserts.  Making small, slow lateral moves allowed me to become more adventurous with foods and overtime reduce food fears.  (side note: I was allowing myself to have restaurant desserts / all-purpose flour desserts in a binge / overeating way.  This progression with lateral moves to these desserts had me bringing them in regularly so I wasn’t ending up overeating / bingeing on them due to deprivation.)

Adding in new foods via lateral moves also allowed me to be more flexible with food in terms of food timing.  Instead of having a dessert-y breakfast, I choose to allow myself to have dessert after a full dinner.  Making lateral moves helped me break the disordered food patterns I was stuck in by challenging the strict (life ruining) food rules dictating my life.

I do want to mention that, for me, when recovering from disordered eating and exercise my behaviors had to change before my thoughts did.  You will have to engage in the behavior of eating the more challenging food, before you will have the thought of, “man, I’d really love to go out to eat and get dessert afterwards.” Or you’ll have to engage in the behavior of not running, before you’ll have the thought of,  “man, I’d really love to not get up and exercise today.” Working with a therapist to help you understand the root of your disordered behaviors can also be extremely helpful (aka essential) here.


After becoming comfortable with oat flour recipes, then I was in a place where I could make “scarier” jumps to desserts ordered out, recipes made with all-purpose flour, etc.  

Eventually I was in a place where I was eating all foods.  Eating a variety of foods, eating an adequate amount of food, not going to food every time I felt sad / depressed / lonely, and eating consistently throughout the day help normalize metabolism, hormones, digestive system, and reduces anxiety about food.  Hmm, go figure…elimination diets, Whole30, juice cleanses, etc aren’t what normalized my metabolism, hormones, digestion and anxiety.

I still like oat flour.  I enjoy baking with it.  But it’s not about what you eat, it’s about why you’re eating it.  My “why” for eating oat flour back in my disordered days was, “I have so many food rules controlling when / what I eat so I’m terrified of eating any flour other than oat flour.”  My “why” for eating oat flour now is, “it tastes good and has a fun texture and sometimes it sounds tasty, but sometimes all-purpose sounds tasty too and both are nourishing for my mind and body.” 

So, thank you, oat flour.  Thanks for being a bridge to getting me from disordered eating to normalized eating.  I want to live a life where I can eat Andrew’s mom’s epic (lard containing) cherry pie, my grandma’s famous poundcake, and any restaurant dessert (even when I’m full) just because it sounds good.

Have you made any lateral moves in your recovery from disordered eating or exercise? Do you need to start making lateral moves? 


  1. Dang, this was so helpful!! I get trapped in black and white thinking. I want to go from 0 to 90, but 90 is too much, so I stay at 0. So, brainstorming smaller steps to take to get me from 0 to 30 to 60 to 90, progressively, is so bright! Thanks, Kylie. And I think it was also important for you to say that we have to do these ACTIONS before the all warm and cozy feelings come with the action. If you are in disordered eating, the feeling is always fear and pain, so if we rely on those feelings, we will never take action. So, great reminder that we have to do the action and the appropriate/freeing/calm feelings will follow. Brilliant post!

  2. Totally agree, and so glad you wrote this! I feel like during my recovery I’ve made several of these lateral steps, and it’s frustrating when people on the outside don’t realize what a challenge it is! To someone who doesn’t “get” it, it looks like you’re just doing the same as you’ve always done, but even breaking those little food rules is HUGE! Thanks for writing this.

    • Totally, Emily! It’s important to find a support system who understands how challenging it can be to make these changes.
      Or people who can listen and try to grasp how tough these changes are for you.

      Ever seen the beginning of this video on what anorexia sounds like? The beginning can be helpful to play for loved ones of those with AN:

  3. This may seem silly but even switching from sweet potatoes to white potatoes was a lateral move for me, now I look back at how ridiculous it was that I couldn’t eat a white potato!!

  4. This is wonderful (as are you). I agree that my behaviors had to change before my thoughts started to change. And the idea of making small lateral moves is a very comprehensive and helpful way of describing the slow, yet effective, steps in recovery. Love it.

  5. This—-> “Hmm, go figure…elimination diets, Whole30, juice cleanses, etc aren’t what normalized my metabolism, hormones, digestion and anxiety.”

    YAS! I can relate so much to this. I had a regular store-bought white flour tortilla last night at dinner and the world did not end. No tortilla–>almond flour tortilla–>sprouted grain tortilla–>regular white flour tortilla. I am so with you on this.

    <3 <3 <3

  6. It’s interesting to me how much of these lateral steps are at least partially the result of bad nutrition myths/ “lifestyles” floating around in society- I’m sure that had society not been pressing gluten free, paleo, or whatever advocates oat flour you would have never felt the need to do this. Andrea in the comments mentioned sweet potatoes, and I see that as being so strongly related to all the sweet potato trends in society. Same with almond milk/milk.

    I think these lateral steps are great ways of breaking out of rigid diet mentalities and are very much worth celebration. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Hey Savannah! YES! Nutrition myths are SO powerful. It’s so easy to cling on to poor science when they’re presented in a fear mongering / you can prevent yourself from feeling bad ever kind of way.

  7. I definitely used lateral moves to come out of “health reasons” veganism, which has been an important part of recovery for me personally. Veganism –> small amounts of shrimp sometimes –> lean meat and fat-free Greek yogurt –> most meat and dairy. I still have days where I just can’t, but the lateral steps definitely have made it easier.

  8. Because of you I was finally able to switch from almond milk (which I honestly never really enjoyed) to 2% milk (best stuff ever). :)

  9. I think perhaps one of mine would be with meat. I used to restrict my consumption, and while I’m mindful based on what feels good for me, I definitely have it much more often. Yesterday we grilled hamburgers, and the label for mine (frozen Private Selection angus beef) had X g trans fat listed. In the past, I would’ve just not eaten it at all and gone without. Instead, I just ate it and understand one thing like this won’t cause problems in the grand scheme of life. :) Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

  10. I love this post and can totally relate to so much of what you are saying. I have come so far in terms of recovery but there are still food items I come across that I feel uneasy eating…
    When I feel this way, I always push the comfort zone and give it a try. For example, alfredo sauce on pasta…I had no idea if I really didn’t like it, or if I convinced myself that I didn’t because of my distorted perception of how unhealthy it. Well, turns out it was the later because when I actually had it, I freakin’ loved it!

  11. Whatever you do don’t go and delete your recipe for breakfast cookies with nibs!! A few years old and they do contain oat flour. But oh so good and satisfying and perfect for on-the-go mornings!

    • LOL I won’t delete! Promise! I think leaving some of my more disordered eating posts can give hope to people as they see my progression from disordered to normalized :)

  12. My lateral moves have included: going from vegan (which felt very restrictive and exhausting) back to vegetarianism which feels nonrestrictive to me. I’ve also gone from only drinking black coffee to cappuccinos and iced coffee with whole milk or half-and-half, depending on what the coffee shop has available. I also use to exclusively make oatmeal with water and now I use almond milk which is much yummier. I used to also have a fear of “regular” bread and would try to restrict my bread consumption to Ezekiel bread, but now I’m more “bread-inclusive!” Thank you for this very relatable post, Kylie.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to improve my relationship with peanut butter? It is the only food I’m having trouble with eating without feeling guilt afterwards. I crave it a lot and satisfy my cravings, but always have guilt associated with it. I’ve tried to incorporate other sources of fat such as avocado, olive oil, ice cream, etc, but nothing alleviates the frequency of the craving. It puzzles me because I have been allowing myself to eat it for months, but it still messes with me. 

    • Ever tried eating peanut butter at every meal and snack? I believe it was Geneen Roth who ate cookie dough for every meal until she realized it was just a food and it wasn’t going to do anything to her.

    • I can relate to you a bit with peanut butter. I crave it each day, multiple times a day. I think that just means it is one of my preferred foods. We can eat bread multiple times a day or milk or whatever it might be and that’s fine! Same applies to peanut butter. If you have a notion it’s bad it will keep you feeling guilty. Or, if its just a food (like all the other foods) you really like to eat often, it just is what it is and there’s no need to make your cravings “go away”. :) hope this makes sense.

    • Hey Maureen! I wonder if it would help to relate it to other favorite foods. Some people love bananas, and def eat one (or several) a day. Other people like bread, and may include some form of it at every meal! You love peanut butter! an amazing healthy fat source that helps you absorb nutrients, get enough protein, and help you feel satiated! Embrace your love for it! I happen to be a peanut butter every day (maybe more then once a day ;) ) person to! I think you will find (like I did) that once you no longer view it as a “splurge” or something “bad”… you may not think about it as much! because it will just be food like everything else! :-) hope this helps!

  13. Is there ever a danger of stopping halfway with this? It seems, from my own experience (and from what I see on social media) that it’s very easy to start switching fake versions of real foods and just stop there- keep eating the cheesecake flavor protein bar (“tastes just like cheesecake!”) and the frozen organic pizza when you get a craving and pretend you have a healthy relationship with food now.

    Getting stuck here at this halfway point is my worry. I look normal and I can pass for normal but the next lateral move is not so clear.

    • For me in recovery, when I was getting cozy at a halfway point that wasn’t full recovery…my mantra was, “You didn’t come this far to only come this far.” Then I would do something with food / exercise that made me uncomfortable or read an intuitive eating book to help keep me moving forward.

      Hope that helps, Ellie <3

  14. What a great concept! I loved this: “Making small, slow lateral moves allowed me to become more adventurous with foods and over time reduce food fears.” I think a big step for me was just trying other people’s food (dessert, pizza, etc) until I got to the place where I could order/make (and enjoy!) it for myself.

    Also, I totally got sucked into the Whole30 craze and the only thing it gave me was a more neurotic relationship with food. Good riddance!

    • That is so my issue with Whole30…it makes people more neurotic about feeding themselves. I have never seen it help any of my clients – even clients who don’t have eating disorders.

  15. I think an important thing to keep in mind is too continue moving laterally through your food fears, because society’s messages (and eating disorder voices) can make it easy to stop halfway. Yes, I now shop for carbs at the grocery store, but I still find myself shying away from certain types of bread, pastas etc. Not because I prefer them, but because I’m still scared to eat them – and even as I’m typing I’m recognizing how ridiculous it is that I’m afraid of an inanimate object that I NEED to survive. Anyways, a big progress for me was during meal prep this week, instead of sticking to quinoa brown rice I made white pasta. And a LOT of it. So all this week, I’ll be facing my food fears daily. This is a huge step in my recovery, especially when I’m feeling like I’m still on the edge of a very slippery slope. Kylie, your blog posts always come at such a perfect time in my life – can you read my mind?! Hope you are growing that baby well :)

    • yep yep yep we live in a society that is constantly telling you to go back into your eating disorder:/

      Yay for white pasta! That’s a huge step, Maddie!

  16. Your posts always resonate so well with me. I have definitely made lateral moves and still have more to make! And I love the behavior change preceding your thoughts. I am still working very hard on the thought department, but I am better able to cozy up with my thoughts and not engage in unhealthy behaviors. Thank you for the insight, as always!

  17. This makes so much sense to me. Thank you for this!

  18. The more I hear of your ED recovery story, the creepier it is to me because it mirrors my own so much.  Because in my ED I allowed myself *minute* portions of oat flour a day, as I was recovering, it was the only flour that felt safe.  As I’ve recovered, I continued to use it but more and more because I love the taste/texture, and all the recipes I’ve developed that conform to my many allergies were using oat flour.   But there is a part of me that knows it is also still a bit of a mental hurdle.  Funny thing is, even though it was *really* hard, I made the transition first to allowing myself to eat other flours at restaurants (because it was a special occasion and I didn’t know what was in it so I can’t be bothered), then gradually to allowing myself to eat purchased, premade bread products at home (like ciabatta, FLOUR tortillas lol, rolls, etc.).  I expect that if I actually made cookies or some dessert (that I could eat when it comes to allergens) out of some other flour myself, that would be another mental leap.  Like not one that seems “ooh I’m not sure I can do this, I’m eating what I used to think was a bad food!”, but just in a “I’m not used to cooking with this anymore and maybe I should stick to what I know” kind of way.  I should challenge myself to it though, next time I bake!!

  19. Kylie your blog feeds my soul! I just recently started making lateral moves and it has opened SO many doors for me! I have been struggling a lot with eating grains at every meal so I started out using corn as my “safe food”, then graduated to rice, then bread, and now my next step is to incorporate these new grains at every snack time too! Changing routine is scary in ANY aspect of life, especially when it comes to food routines, but the sacrifices attached to sticking with these routines are SO much scarier. For anyone out there that’s still so nervous to make the first “lateral move”, I’ve got a super fun recommendation for you: please go watch Shia LaBouef’s YouTube video “Just Do It” and picture yourself crushing those food rules, whatever they may be, that have been crushing you for so long! Once you make that first step, every step after gets a little bit easier. And I whole heartedly believe everyone needs a little more Shia in their lives ;)

    • Thanks for encouraging other readers, Natalie!!!! I love seeing that! Also can’t wait to listen to that Shia video!

      • It’s definitely more humorous than it is inspirational, but always serves as a perfect reminder for me to not take every little decision I make SO seriously! Hopefully you and others can watch it as a funny break in your day!

  20. I had never before heard of “lateral moves” – WOW! So true and very very applicable, Kylie.

    Thank you for sharing this! Some of my lateral moves were definitely eating the cookies and muffins I didn’t make (and eventually didn’t ask what the ingredients were), allowing myself to have a snack at a certain despite how close it was to my bedtime, and NOT forcing myself to chug a smoothie for breakfast when I all I was craving were pancakes or toast or whatever.

    :) thanks Kylie – you always inspire me!

  21. I’m really working on this with exercise. I have been letting myself take additional/unplanned rest days if I’m tired or having a really long day. I also deleted my running app and no longer track my time on it. I would like to get to a very intuitive place but these are my baby steps. 

  22. This post definitely put words to what I (and many others) have experienced. The lateral progression of foods throughout recovery is very real. I never realized how this happens until reading this post. One example for me has been sugar. White sugar was scary for a long time throughout recovery. Honey -> Coconut Sugar -> “Unrefined” Sugar -> White Sugar and a variety of all the above and others :)

    Now I can enjoy all types of sugars in sweet foods/drinks without fear of certain ones. This progression truly brings freedom! Thanks again, Kylie!

  23. Thank you for your insights, vulnerabilities, and motivation. Even reading the comments makes me feel less alone and that my “rules” aren’t so crazy. It’s a lonely and confusing road to recovery at times. I love the idea of lateral moves…and share the fears around carbs and peanut butter. But I am going to do it and keep challenging myself as this kind of controlled life, isn’t a life!

    • I agree, Megan! A highly controlled, micromanaged, food rule-ridden life isn’t fully living! Glad you’re going to keep moving forward :)

  24. One of my many lateral moves was buying flour tortillas instead of whole wheat, there is just something about the taste and texture of flour tortillas that make a taco or burrito taste 10x better (for my palate). Another lateral move was buying chocolate milk, I now drink it every day, especially warmed up in my coffee, aaahh I love it!

  25. Kylie,

    I LOVE THIS! You’re so wise, and I enjoy hearing your point of view. I could probably write a post called “A Thank You to Kylie” ha! All of your post offer me a fresh point of view and I always leave feeling challenged and inspired. You’re totally meant to be doing what you’re doing!

  26. I’d never really thought about it, but oat flour was my lateral move too! I followed a very similar pattern of baking with oat flour to finally getting to the stage where I could enjoy all types of flours depending on what I am in the mood for. It’s so cool when someone else’s experiences can cause a lightbulb to turn on and cause you look at your experiences in a different way. Thanks for sharing :)

  27. I have never heard of the term lateral steps before, but I like it! Such a good thought process to get away from disordered eating thoughts. Also, you introduced me to those nut butter filled cliff bars and they are soo good! My bf had one for the first time yesterday and loved it! Oh and I’m also one of those people who eat a lot of rx bars so I guess I was making a lateral move without knowing it buy eating the cliff bar!

  28. Brilliant post! I have made many lateral moves during my recovery from disordered eating and exercise. One major positive change was waking up early to do gentle yoga or go for a relaxing walk instead of going for a long hard run, until I reached a point where I didn’t necessarily feel the need to get up early to do anything if I didn’t want to! Now I’m at a point where exercise is completely intuitive and 100 percent fun and enjoyable. Running is no longer a source of stress. I totally agree with you that you often have to change a behaviour before you can change your thoughts. :)

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  31. Thanks for sharing this info, I really liked your storytelling fashion.

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