Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post titled Meal Plans for Eating Disorder Recovery. This post gave a brief overview of an exchange based meal plan for eating disorder recovery. For someone who is a newbie to the world of meal plans though, the information contained in that post may not be enough guidance. As a result, it can be easy to stick to eating familiar foods for fear that making a mistake with the portion size and exchanges will cause weight to spiral out of control. If you are reading this and you can relate, don't get stuck in the rut of only allowing yourself safe foods! Break out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, and incorporate some variety into your intake. After all, challenging yourself is the key to recovering from an eating disorder. If you are too fearful and anxious to take a guess with the portion and exchange of an unfamiliar food, you can rely on a food label to help you. Click here for a breakdown of the exchange system based off of a food label (*please do not click, however, if a food label is going to be a trigger and will not be helpful for you).
The trick to using food labels... 1. Only rely on food labels when you need to! Although food labels can be helpful, it can also easily become an area of obsession. Look at a food label only when you don't have a clue what you would count a particular food as. Obsessing over food labels will leave you stuck in your eating disorder. However, using them to learn how to incorporate new foods into your intake will keep you on the road to recovery. 2. Take a guess first! Before you look at a food label, try to estimate the portion size and exchange of that food first. Doing so will allow you to use the food label as a teaching tool versus an area of obsession. Use the information you learn about one food to help you estimate a similar food. After all, many foods you will come across will not have a food label (example: foods at a cook out, food at many restaurants, etc). 3. Be flexible! It can be quite difficult to be exact with the calories and grams needed for a protein, grain, fat, and snack exchange. Therefore, do not focus on perfection. Instead, work on being flexible with each exchange. You will be on the high end of an exchange at times. Consequently, you will be on the low end of an exchange at other times. In the end, it will even out to what your dietitian is calculating your needs to be.