6

votes

paleo and eating disorder advice

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 02, 2011 at 8:17 PM

I am wondering if anyone else has suffered from disordered eating while on paleo or just unhealthy behavior over food? The reason I ask is because I am a recovered bulimic for about 15 years now. However, my relationship with food has never been a good one since a very young age. I have managed over the years though to remain healthy. I eat well and exercise regularly and I am a normal weight female. I have noticed though since starting paleo over a year ago that some of my eating disorder thoughts have been trickling back in. I am also a crossfitter and am starting to feel the pressure of always pushing hard and keeping my nutrition in check. I do not want to get caught up in relapses. Has anyone else experienced this that may have some helpful advice?

4d6aa1a676240b15dc569ff8ade0500f

(2546)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

i've had the same experience...when i started paleo it was all so easy. then i learned more and now i'm trying maximize my nutrition, my omega 3:6 ratio, try to get in some fasting, minimize thecarbs. it's become exhausting...i'm trying to get out of that way of thinking again...starting with not obsessing over my fruit intake. sounds so ridiculous when i write it out!

868d5a80240dbf8ccfd88ad63abbf1a1

on June 26, 2012
at 03:19 PM

Thank you so much for that link, that blog is amazing x

809b117f760db3aeb73567337581165f

(45)

on March 21, 2012
at 05:30 PM

I have found sometimes in life and recovery it can certainly be one step forward and two steps back, but I am always reaching for forward motion and self love! Thank you for sharing your experience and insights. I especially love your very last line! So true! I wish you well on your continued "zig-zag" recovery :)

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 02, 2012
at 11:34 PM

You might want to sharply limit your time on the site or avoid PH if that's happening. [Mark's Daily Apple](http://www.marksdailyapple.com/#axzz1lFKFkss4) is a very positive site and there are others.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on September 14, 2011
at 02:19 PM

I agree with the "control" aspect but lets not forget that much of it is just pure compulsion and addictive behavior. I can sort of commiserate with alcoholics when I think about my bingeing issues, the only problem is that alcoholics can go cold turkey... I have to continue eating. There's a sort of escapism that happens in your brain when you're planning or engaging in a binge (and/or purge) and you stop focusing on everything else, which is why it's good to disengage and try to distract oneself if possible.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on September 14, 2011
at 01:27 PM

Thank you so much yogini! I have been going through a bit of a rough patch and this really made me smile.

D6a5a11734337208246e7d53184c8197

(250)

on September 14, 2011
at 12:20 PM

Melissa, I love your comments and insights and find you very inspirational. Intermittent fasting is horrible for me most of the time and brings me to a place where I get overly hungry and out of control. Thanks for reminding me--and others--that overthinking things and doing what doesn't work for you because everyone else is doing it is NOT the way to spend the rest of your life.

6a4fd73b4ae4761eefec8e0d38e6f224

(1008)

on March 03, 2011
at 12:44 AM

I think they often do start out as an honest attempt to trim down, or keep off weight that was inadvertently lost (maybe due to illness or stress). But as sherpamelissa said, the Achilles' heel is the feeling that one's life is happening to her and she needs to control something and/or punish herself (or himself) for failing to be in charge. To bring it back to Paleo: I've had a big problem with binges, and while I can't say I never overeat anymore, allowing myself meat and fat is the ONLY thing that has disabused me of that late-night, head-in-the-fridge habit.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on March 03, 2011
at 12:03 AM

Absolutely control issues, when something else is out of control, feeling like at least you are in charge of what you are putting in your body is a way of dealing with it. The body issues are a whole other thing.

2507b557331c8a674bc81197531e609a

(4994)

on March 02, 2011
at 11:09 PM

It depends on the person, a lot of the time it's more of a control thing.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 02, 2011
at 10:37 PM

Please forgive my ignorance and I ask this with all due respect, but do you think that eating disorders start out very early on as a simple desire to be lean or is there more going on?

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10 Answers

13
6a4fd73b4ae4761eefec8e0d38e6f224

(1008)

on March 02, 2011
at 10:08 PM

I have wrestled with anorexia and some binge-and-starve bulimia. I understand what it's like to think you've got it licked, only to slip back into an unhealthy pattern seemingly without warning. That ED ember is never completely extinguished, in my opinion; any moment we feel like we're losing control over some aspect of our lives is a potential trigger. I won't pretend to have even half of the answers, but here's what helps me:

  • Unconditional self-acceptance: Treating it as an ongoing process. (Not to be confused with self-esteem, which is situational.) We don't just "get it" one day and feel good about ourselves for the rest of our lives; we have to practice loving ourselves, and give that ritual as much priority as exercise and teeth-brushing. I know this sounds kind of obvious, but it's sooooo easy to forget.

  • Yoga: My little reality check a few times a week. Helps me sort of step outside myself; pull my gaze out of my navel; be more compassionate with myself and others. My yoga teacher uses the phrase "compassionate maximum" a lot, meaning the farthest you can push yourself - mentally, physically, emotionally - without doing yourself any harm. I really try to take that to heart.

  • Permission: I have learned the hard way, as I'm sure you have, that when I deny myself food that I want, my mind and body eventually conspire to rebel, and I am a helluva lot more sorry than I would have been if I'd eaten that "treat," whatever it was, without guilt. You'd give it to someone you love. Why not to yourself?

Basically I think it boils down to asking ourselves, "Am I being as kind to myself as I am to everyone else?" For me, the answer is often a resounding "No," and that is not okay. Any time you want to vent or chat, you can contact me.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on March 03, 2011
at 12:03 AM

Absolutely control issues, when something else is out of control, feeling like at least you are in charge of what you are putting in your body is a way of dealing with it. The body issues are a whole other thing.

2507b557331c8a674bc81197531e609a

(4994)

on March 02, 2011
at 11:09 PM

It depends on the person, a lot of the time it's more of a control thing.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 02, 2011
at 10:37 PM

Please forgive my ignorance and I ask this with all due respect, but do you think that eating disorders start out very early on as a simple desire to be lean or is there more going on?

6a4fd73b4ae4761eefec8e0d38e6f224

(1008)

on March 03, 2011
at 12:44 AM

I think they often do start out as an honest attempt to trim down, or keep off weight that was inadvertently lost (maybe due to illness or stress). But as sherpamelissa said, the Achilles' heel is the feeling that one's life is happening to her and she needs to control something and/or punish herself (or himself) for failing to be in charge. To bring it back to Paleo: I've had a big problem with binges, and while I can't say I never overeat anymore, allowing myself meat and fat is the ONLY thing that has disabused me of that late-night, head-in-the-fridge habit.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on September 14, 2011
at 02:19 PM

I agree with the "control" aspect but lets not forget that much of it is just pure compulsion and addictive behavior. I can sort of commiserate with alcoholics when I think about my bingeing issues, the only problem is that alcoholics can go cold turkey... I have to continue eating. There's a sort of escapism that happens in your brain when you're planning or engaging in a binge (and/or purge) and you stop focusing on everything else, which is why it's good to disengage and try to distract oneself if possible.

6
A39d8f5dfc5ac23a9ba3d3ccf85c0632

(190)

on March 02, 2011
at 09:50 PM

I have been both bulemic and a binger my whole life too. I found that the first 6 months of Paleo was the easiest nutritional plan I've ever had. I was able to eat what I wanted, within the Paleo food rainbow, and never feel grossly full or hungry. I found though, that over time I became more educated and have become more and more "obsessive" in tracking macro and mironutrients, the volume of intake, restrictions on fructose, etc.

I've found, like with any recovery program, I need a partner to share my feelings with honestly and openly. My husband has been great for that, but any friend or family member you feel comfortable will work. He helps to remind me that wanting ice cream at 10pm isn't something I most likely really want or need and steers me to tea or water instead, but also reminds me when I'm crying over eating more fruit than I should have that it's FRUIT and it's OK.

Over time (it's been almost 10 mo for me) I hope that the issues will be less so and I can just naturally know what is a healthy balance. Take your time, relax and don't put too much pressure on yourself. Being fit and healthy is fantastic, but even pro altheletes relax and enjoy their "off" seasons.

4d6aa1a676240b15dc569ff8ade0500f

(2546)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

i've had the same experience...when i started paleo it was all so easy. then i learned more and now i'm trying maximize my nutrition, my omega 3:6 ratio, try to get in some fasting, minimize thecarbs. it's become exhausting...i'm trying to get out of that way of thinking again...starting with not obsessing over my fruit intake. sounds so ridiculous when i write it out!

4
7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

on March 03, 2011
at 12:09 AM

I am binge eater that has not had a binge for over a year. Before that it had been a couple of years. These are huge steps from someone that had issues almost every weekend.

I've done well on Paleo, but I do it my way. I am still counting calories because I cannot do the "eat to satiety" thing. Counting calories keeps me within boundries. I am not trying to lose weight. I count for the stability of it. It makes me feel safe that I am making the right choices. For some people it would actually make them feel more obsessed.

I also eat every 2/3 hours most of the time. If I wait too long to eat, I make bad choices. I've learned that both the counting and the eating times are necessary for me or I fall back into old bad habits.

I think when you start recognizing the eating disordered thoughts you need to try to find the trigger for it. There is usually a stressor in your life that will make you more apt to lapse into whatever your issues are whether it's eating or not eating. Finding the trigger and trying to fix that issue is what really helped me overcome my problem.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on September 14, 2011
at 01:27 PM

Thank you so much yogini! I have been going through a bit of a rough patch and this really made me smile.

D6a5a11734337208246e7d53184c8197

(250)

on September 14, 2011
at 12:20 PM

Melissa, I love your comments and insights and find you very inspirational. Intermittent fasting is horrible for me most of the time and brings me to a place where I get overly hungry and out of control. Thanks for reminding me--and others--that overthinking things and doing what doesn't work for you because everyone else is doing it is NOT the way to spend the rest of your life.

3
C4ed6ba382aed2eefc18e7877999a5de

(1579)

on September 15, 2011
at 02:39 AM

I developed eating issues while on paleo. I wouldn't say I was anorexic but I definitely restricted too much and fasted every day which made my daily calorie intake plummet. It's easy to get caught up in the "rules" and not cut yourself enough slack. I was also concerned with being on a food budget and cooking for myself for the first time, and as a result I ate less. Now I'm trying to gain weight again and I find myself trying to focus more on nourishing my body as it feels right instead of stressing out about micronutrients and eating windows.

2
8274ce9d4bffd8209055e1e34def04d6

(429)

on March 02, 2011
at 10:04 PM

Eating disorders sometimes arise out a need for control. I definitely have a disorder around food. All my life, I have felt unsafe and worried that I would not have access to food. This is definitely irrational, but it made me overeat for years and years.

I have no definite answers but I decided to try to approach this from several angles. One is the psychological...But I decided to also try to change my lifelong bad habits. I decided to add No S to paleo to reform my relationship with food. So far, so good. I am learning to trust myself with portions and cravings.

1
1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

on September 14, 2011
at 02:17 PM

I also had bulimia for about 5 years as a teenager and then continued during college to have binge issues and still occasional purging. I definitely feel like it has been helped by paleo. I'm a lot more likely to get out of control with grains, but the monster is still there and it still comes out once in a while, despite my good habits. I think that any time you get in to a more controlled eating plan, it can encourage more obsessive thoughts about food and that includes paleo, though I think in my vegan years I was a LOT more obsessed with the staying "clean" concept. I think it's helpful to have a like-minded buddy, preferably someone who has also struggled with this issue to call or email when you're having trouble. I also find that if I'm starting to plan a binge I can usually circumvent it by calling a relative just to chat or going on a leisurely walk with my son. I personally believe that distraction goes a long way when it comes to curbing compulsive behavior. Also staying in the lower end of the carb spectrum seems to help me avoid the highs and lows that get me going. I know the culture on here lately has been kind of anti-low carb but I am much more even keeled and less compulsive when I'm not sticking the tubers and fruit in there in any significant way.

1
D6a5a11734337208246e7d53184c8197

on September 14, 2011
at 12:32 PM

I am bulimic. I guess you could say I'm zig-zagging toward recovery. When I see myself getting obsessive over food, I need to back off. Although adopting a Paleo-ish diet has been more helpful than anything in reducing my binges, what sets me off is getting overly restrictive about things. For example, trying Whole30 was a huge mistake for me. Thinking of exercise as a vehicle for burning calories or changing the external shape of my body can be triggering. I have gotten to the point where I will restrict vegetables because of their carb content, feel deprived, and then eat a cup of nuts (hey, they're high in fat!).

I think any eating program, Paleo or not, can push someone back into an eating disorder because there are "rules" and food that is "good" and "bad". I try to think about all the things that I love that I GET to eat instead of everything I CAN'T eat. Fortunately, most of the things I love to eat that are not Paleo foods are foods that make me feel lousy (like milk chocolate, sugary foods, and anything made with wheat). If there's something that I want that I know won't put me on the toilet for a few days or trigger me (like cheese, which I use as a condiment and love), then I eat it. If I find myself thinking about intermittent fasting, I go for a few days eating by the clock rather than letting my hunger dictate when I eat. Getting too hungry is dangerous.

Other than that, the most important thing I do is to not overthink my eating. From what I read about Crossfit, it seems like people tend to get caught up in the culture and lose sight of individual goals and weaknesses. Make sure to do what's right for you, even if it means breaking away from the herd once in a while.

809b117f760db3aeb73567337581165f

(45)

on March 21, 2012
at 05:30 PM

I have found sometimes in life and recovery it can certainly be one step forward and two steps back, but I am always reaching for forward motion and self love! Thank you for sharing your experience and insights. I especially love your very last line! So true! I wish you well on your continued "zig-zag" recovery :)

0
912ec069b5bd84af1b6ef7545b950908

on February 02, 2012
at 09:55 PM

Stumbled across this looking for something else...I have a history of undereating. When I get anxious, I stop eating. If I feel a lot of pressure to eat a particular thing, I stop eating. The good thing about paleo is that it emphasizes more calories and more fat instead of less of everything. Cognitive therapy has been the best thing for me in terms of dealing with this long-term. Basically I'm now able to say to myself "Listen, you restricted calories and fat like crazy for years and you didn't lose weight. So you know that doesn't work. Why not try this instead?"

I think (and this is strictly my experience) that some of the writing in the blogosphere about paleo and primal eating is triggering for my undereating problem. I feel like there are a lot of very absolute messages (carbs are ABSOLUTELY bad, and missing meals ABSOLUTELY does/does not kill your metabolism, etc) and they stress me out in a serious way -- starting that cascade of anxiety about 'should I eat this or not zomg!'

Thanks for your question, though, glad to know others are thinking about this...

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 02, 2012
at 11:34 PM

You might want to sharply limit your time on the site or avoid PH if that's happening. [Mark's Daily Apple](http://www.marksdailyapple.com/#axzz1lFKFkss4) is a very positive site and there are others.

0
Af2ad65226384cedd4f5f08825a75b5d

(665)

on March 02, 2011
at 09:26 PM

My answer will be short as I don't have any personal experience, but Malpaz's blog "Zeroing in on Recovery"\where she talks about her experiences recovering from at eating disorder, her current status following a paleo/primal diets, and offers advice for people who have struggled / are struggling with eating disorders seems like it would be exactly what you are looking for.

868d5a80240dbf8ccfd88ad63abbf1a1

on June 26, 2012
at 03:19 PM

Thank you so much for that link, that blog is amazing x

0
Medium avatar

on March 02, 2011
at 08:32 PM

I think the most important thing is deciding what your goals are. If one of your major goals is to be lean and muscular, then you have to eat a lot of fatty meats and likely restrict fructose down as low as possible and eat an amount of starch that doesn't exceed your glycogen storage capacity. Beyond that, any bodyfat you might have is hormonal, and obviously normal and healthy for a female.

I think the saddest part about eating disorders, assuming that the kernel they grow from is at least initially a desire to be skinny, is that all those people would have had to do is eat fat and meat to their heart's content to get there. We know that starvation dieting doesn't work and that the catabolic nature of it causes muscles to be consumed for energy and for the person to just become and look really unhealthy. With any sort of body dysmorphia however, what they may see in the mirror may be distorted, but leanness and satiety can definitely go hand in hand.

I may be in the minority here, but I'm completely unconvinced about the merits of fasting, so don't think that fasting is part and parcel of paleo or that you need to do it. If it tempts you to not eat enough, just skip it.

I'd say you should trust paleo to correctly nourish you, trust crossfit (in reasonable amounts) to be sufficient exercise and make minor tweaks to your starch intake if you insist on attaining a lower bodyfat percentage. If you're a female who is dead-set on having a 6-pack, you should probably reevaluate your goals, though.

Edit: I don't have any personal experience with this affliction, so I defer to anyone here who has more experience.

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