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.