Day divided between times I was eating and times I was keeping myself from eating.

I wrote a post over a year ago on 5 things I don’t miss about my disordered eating and exercise. This is another thing to add to that list to offer some motivation when you’re in the messy middle of recovery and you don’t know why you should keep pursing recovery. It’s important to mention how your disordered eating or exercise can be harming you since sometimes it’s hard to see what your eating disorder is keeping you from and, therefore, in the messy middle part of recovery it’s easy to get to the place of:

  • “what’s the point of keeping going?”
  • “what’s the point of eating that ice cream sandwich I’ve set as a food challenge?”
  • “it feels impossible to practice a way to cope that doesn’t involve restriction/binging/purging – be it vomiting your food or exercising it off, so why try?”

The middle part of recovery from disordered eating and exercise is filled with moving away from unhealthy behaviors and running back to them (Dr. Johnston’s log metaphor describes this so well). I call it the messy middle because it can feel chaotic as you are building new neural pathways and learning how to care for yourself differently. The messy middle part of recovery could be where you haven’t binged and/or purged for 2 months and suddenly you find yourself crying post-purge. It can leave you feeling defeated.

When in this season of recovery, you are becoming more resilient and increasingly able to tolerate discomfort without going to your eating disorder. You are utilizing the new skills you are practicing to cope with life and doing so will lead to fewer and short dips into disordered food and exercise behaviors (see the image below). Until the day comes when you don’t rely on those behaviors at all anymore. However, sometimes, in the messy middle, you choose an ED behavior you are trying to get away from. It happens. It’s not something to beat yourself up for, instead learn what you can from that experience and more forward with practicing taking care of yourself.

So onto what I don’t miss…

I remember in my disordered eating days how my days used to be divided between times I was eating and times I was distracting myself from eating. If I was eating, I was thinking about food. If I wasn’t eating, I was proactively doing something to distract myself away from food in an effort to keep from eating as long as possible. I had a similarly intense pull towards food regardless of my hunger or fullness levels since my entire eating experience was about taking hard to manage feelings and putting them on my food choices so I’d have something tangible to fix. Additionally, I had no desire to use my hunger and fullness to guide me because all I wanted was thinness and trusting my body didn’t guarantee that.

Dividing my life up into times I’m eating vs times I’m distracting away from eating, in some ways, helped life seem more simple. If I could just focus on eating or not eating then I wouldn’t have to address the complicated things in life. One could argue (and I have argued this), “isn’t it better to just stay obsessed with food and our body size than deal with the mess of the pain we’ve been though and go through?” But I’ve found that finding a way to stop minimizing my life down to being in a state of eating or distracting myself away from eating has brought more fulfillment and fullness, than distress and sadness…even with the crappy things in life that we still have to endure.

While life is complex, there are more helpful ways to simplify your thoughts and life than by engaging in EDBs. For instance, making a list of your values and making sure you are aligning with those. A book I read on motherhood recently (<– affiliate link) connected minimalism and values by saying this, “[minimalism is] the intentional promotion of the things we most value and removing anything that distracts us from it. The abundance of extra doesn’t just take up space. It keeps us from the things we want to be a part of our lives.” I chose to apply this quote to social media, since I don’t think social media does that much good and have stepped away from it a lot. Personally and professionally it’s contributed as much good as it has bad to my life, so I’m at a net neutral when it comes to social media’s usefulness. I find that when we live with too much noise coming in (aka living in a world with social media that gives us 24/7 access to how others are living and what they choose to put their value and worth in) it can be hard to stay in-pursuit of things we want to be part of our lives and move away from things we have found harmful for us and our family that we’re still learning how to live without (i.e. pursuit of thinness, lifestyle choices that are destructive for you, diets, etc.).

How to not feel like your day is divided up between times you’re eating and times you’re keeping yourself from eating?

To be able to make your life more than food, one has to be eating consistently throughout the day (a relatively equal amount of food coming in the first half of the day as the second half) and eating all foods at all times (a variety of carbs, fat and protein). This requires you to think about food a lot in the beginning of this process since one may not be used to eating so regularly or eating all foods at all times of the day. To zoom in a bit and give some practical examples, this could mean you’re able to eat a dessert for a morning snack or have pizza until you hit satisfaction for lunch on a weekday. Undereating at certain parts of the day leads to obsessive food thoughts because you end up deprived of something you aren’t meant to be deprived of…FOOD. Additionally, having foods rules that keep certain sweets out of your life at certain times of the day/week will keep you feeling out of control around those foods and feeling like you have to distract yourself away from them or else you’d just eat them ALL DAY EVERYDAY.

Getting away from a chaotic pattern of eating and finding your natural body size takes work. You have to want to feel at home in your body to ever get to a place of feeling at home in your body. You have to be pursing it. It won’t just fall into your lap. There is a body size and a way to process life where you don’t have to feel rigid and/or chaotic around food and exercise. A body size where interacting with food takes some brain space, but not a large majority of it. Finding that body size can be terrifying, but we’ve been given bodies (that are meant to have different levels of fat on them), appetites, cravings for movement, and cravings for rest we can trust. 

Does this concept resonate? Do you find (or have you found in the past) your days are spent with you putting energy into distracting yourself away from eating?


  1. This is a really beautiful image and it captures something I observed today — I was experiencing some uncomfortable feelings, but I noticed my reaction was less severe than it had been in previous times. I think it’s because I’ve had practice with coping mechanisms instead of going to my EDB. Thank you again for the wonderful article!

  2. Kylie, 
    Thank you so much for the wonderful post. You know, there are times I feel like just giving up social media altogether, but you have helped me SOOO much. I don’t like the thought of living without your posts. Thanks again :)

  3. Fortunately, I have been able to move away from the “time eating and the time not eating” lifestyle and have learned to honor my hunger cues more.  Like you said, it takes practice and effort and is not just going to happen.  Thank you for this post.

  4. I really related to this. My ED days are at least 15 years in the past, but I still get a little thrill when I realize I don’t have any forethought and weight around eating/when to eat anymore. I am completely just aware of hunger, fullness, and when something just sounds good and I want to taste it regardless of hunger and mealtime. It’s an amazing feeling. 
    Also, I gave up social media about 6-8 months ago, and it was the start of some amazing changes in my life. It’s like you said: making room for what I want, and even some things that weren’t on my radar. It had became a net negative for me, and I am so much happier without it. Hope you keep blogging so I can keep up with you! 

    • Thanks for sharing, Angela! Your description of your relationship with food sounds so peaceful. AWESOME!

      The plan is to keep blogging and using social media to let people know about new posts. Just planning on sharing less personal on IG.

  5. Love this. This is a wonderful post and I’ll start writing my list of values asap.

    I am one of the few people that still likes social media. The secret to me was to just follow accounts that inspire me, teach me something that interests me, or make me laugh. Everything else is out and I feel great or neutral (never bad) every time I come out of Instagram.

    btw, you are one of those inspiring/educational people to me! :)

  6. A year ago right now, I was in residential treatment for my Ed. It’s been such a long year, and the resilience image really resonates with me. I’m in the messy middle right now and it SUCKS. Thank you for sharing this post.

    • SO MUCH learning and experimenting happening for you right now! Keep practicing how to take care of yourself! The messy middle won’t last for forever!

  7. I’m very, very familiar with this feeling. Even though I’ve been in recovery/recovered for four years now, I find that sometimes, if I don’t honor my hunger cues, I can still fall back into that pattern of days spent eating and distracting from thoughts of food. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen much anymore. Thanks for sharing your articulate thoughts!

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