Let’s talk about “trigger foods”…and overcoming them.
I am so happy to say I am doing a collaboration with the wonderful “Maple and Muffins”!
So I have been following this wonderful girl for a while, and you may well have been too. I discovered her Instagram page around a year ago, when I was really struggling with my illness – and I’m so glad I did. Her blog is all about health, fitness, and delicious recipes for plant-based food. If you don’t follow her already, go check out her Instagram and her blog! She is a fabulous inspiration, and her posts provide a really positive motivation towards recovery.
The two of us come from similar backgrounds…we have both suffered with an eating disorder, and use our blogs as a way of sharing our experiences and helping others. So we thought it might be a nice idea to discuss an issue we’ve both faced, and that you would be able to relate to.
And we decided on…overcoming a “trigger food”.
Now when I say “trigger food”, I’m sure you will all know exactly what I mean. I’m talking about a particular food that, were you to eat, would kick off an overwhelming feeling of panic, an impulse to immediately “get rid” of what you’ve just eaten in some way, and probably stop you eating anything else for a while afterwards. But the funny thing is…these foods tend to be something you used to really enjoy (and secretly, really miss). Let’s get you loving that food again!
We are both going to talk about something that used to be a trigger food for us, and how great it feels to be able to overcome that fear and enjoy it again. And inspire you to try and do the same….because, trust me, you can.
We will also be sharing some delicious smoothie recipes for you to enjoy!
So without further ado, here is the guest post from Maple and Muffins…
Maple and Muffins Blog
Hey everyone! I’m Abi from Maple and Muffins and this post has been written as part of a collaboration with Lucy’s Love of Food (whose post you can see over on www.mapleandmuffins.blogspot.com). I hope you enjoy taking the time to read this post and that it helps some of you out x
If you have followed me for a while on Instagram or my blog, by now you will have noticed that my posts are becoming a little chattier and bit more open, as i’m getting to know you and you’re getting to know me. My experience with anorexia taught me many things about life, my life, myself and it’s only right that I share this with you because it is something that despite its horrific nature, is becoming increasingly common.
We no longer live in a world where anorexia and other eating disorders are unheard of, and I would go as far as to say they are fast becoming ‘normal’ in society. This isn’t right because from first hand experience I know how horrible the illness is – and it is an illness just like any other and it does kill people and it does drive families apart. That’s the nature of it and that’s why it cannot ever be accepted in society and why it is vital that it is treated as any other illness would be, and not be turned away by doctors who believe it shouldn’t. I will never understand why people feel that way. Granted, it is often hard to see how devastating the effects can be if you or anyone you know has never had the unwelcome pleasure of experiencing it – but count yourselves the lucky ones because you never want to know what it’s like. You never want to watch someone you love fall so deep into a hole that they can’t get out again, or climb a mountain so high that they can’t jump off it. This is how I perceived my own journey when I was at my very weakest, my bluest, my most ill and my coldest, and i’m sure how many other people in the world feel.
Something that people don’t understand properly or don’t take as seriously as they should are trigger foods. These are foods which scare you. They scare you so much that it is the hardest thing in the world, at that point in time, to consider eating. For me this was chocolate.
I cut chocolate out of my diet in November 2014, and at first I thought it would make a good early New Years resolutions and something to do in the lead up to Christmas feasting. I didn’t realise how far this one small change would bring me down. This was something that I didn’t think I could do, I thought that I would give up after a couple of days but in a way this is what kept me motivated to carry on, and I think that determination is a common trait found in people who experience anorexia because it does take a colossal amount of will-power to push through and deprive yourself for that long. I remember that when I had to pull of of the county badminton team because of my illness my coach at the time said to me that out of everyone, I would be the one to experience this because I was the most determined out of everyone. The most determined to succeed, even if what my brain thought was succeeding was really well and truly failing beyond measures.
I accumulated a number of trigger foods in the 3 years I had anorexia, and in someways they will never go away. Chocolate was the first to go, especially the Dairy Milk, then meat, then dairy, then eggs. Hell, I practically turned into a vegan overnight. Refined sugars were kicked out next, followed by anything processed which pretty much left me with only one thing – vegetables. It took a long long time to understand a healthy balanced diet. I had gone from a girl who didn’t care if she ate the family pack of jelly babies and jaffa cakes during a study break, to a girl who counted every individual calorie and only ate frozen peas and sweetcorn – okay maybe that’s a little bit on an exaggeration but it’s along the right lines.
I’m going to be damn honest with you now. Overcoming a trigger food is bloody hard. It takes guts and determination – two of the qualities we have already established that you have because you have managed to get yourself into this position in the first place. Use every ounce of that strength you have and focus on bringing yourself to being okay with the concept of the food, establishing that it exists and that there is nothing “bad” or anything to be ashamed of about eating it. Just think to yourself:
“Pretty much the whole of the western world is eating this or worse on a regular basis”
That always helped me when I was coming to terms with a trigger food.
Then you need to somehow pluck up the courage to eat the food, even just a tiny bit. I have a very very vivid memory in my mind which will probably never leave me because the experience was so horrific, but we went skiing during the first year of my eating disorder. We were in a self-catered apartment and that made life easier because eating out was a HUGE no. In fact you couldn’t get a bigger no from Simon Cowell, let alone me!
I was sat at the dinner table after taking around an hour to eat a tiny plate of peas and a vegetarian sausage which alone I struggled with, and then my parents and brother came out with an even bigger surprise. I was faced with chocolate. They put a quality street in from of me and I couldn’t leave the table until I had eaten it. So I sat there. I sat for 30minutes. I sat for an hour thinking they would give in. I cried and I cried and I protested with all of the excuses I could think of, but in the back of my mind I knew there was not a single thing wrong with eating that chocolate – in fact I knew it would actually do me a ton of good.
I didn’t eat that quality street, it was the orange one I think, and I probably never will again because of that experience. This is what I mean wen I talk about a trigger food. It’s something that scares the shit out of you but you still can’t think of one good reason not to eat it, other than ‘it will make me fat’.
One day though, about a year and a half after this experience I was walking home from school and I got a sudden craving for mini eggs. This sort of thing happened a lot because I was so deprived of the food my body wanted, and so as I walked past the shop I found myself walking in. I went straight for those mini eggs and bought them – I think I was on a mission to beat this fear, I had had enough. THAT is the determination i’m talking about ladies and gents. That is what we have inside of us. I never actually ate those mini eggs on the day I bought them because I was too scared. I placed them in my bedroom cupboard where I could see them and there they sat. They sat there for a month, two months, three months (possibly even 4!), before I managed to come to terms with the prospect of actually putting one inside my mouth. I did, though. I ate one, and when I did my immediate reaction was to cry because I didn’t know what else to do. I cried and contemplated all of my fears that evening, but by the next day I felt like I had accomplished something and my previously stationary life had started to move again. I remember I told my closest friend at school, I told my grandparents, I told my parents and even though none of them were that impressed (or at least they didn’t seem it) I knew I was. I had done something to shift this illness and I had done it myself. No force. No help. No motive other than the desire which now burned in me to get better.
A trigger food really can be anything, I have come across people who are scared of vegetables, fruit, carbs, sugar, fats – you names it, there is someone out there scared of it. And it’s not like a spider either. You can’t just get someone else to come and pick it up and throw it out of the window because you are the only one who can do that. Only you can undo what’s been done, and face those fears head on. If you don’t, and you just wait around for someone else to do it, I promise that train is never going to stop and that person is never going to come. The world doesn’t wait for you, so all of the time that is spent in that dark place is time that could have been spent enjoying life to the full.
It took me a long time to realise that, i’m still trying to understand it today but I can tell you now that I am a whole lot closer than I was 3 years ago, 2 years ago…3 months ago!
When you find yourself you will know. You will be happy again and you will remember all the things you love. It maybe that you find new loves along the way and meet new people and make new friends. Yes it seems like a scary world out there from the tiny corner you are living in, but if you don’t ever come out then you will never really know and you will never find who you really are.
I hope this has helped some of you a bit with your own journey, and inspired others to look deeper into mental health rather than what you see on the surface or think of it. It is just like any other illness and it takes time to treat, just have patience if you are a family member or friend who knows someone struggling because they will pull through. Find them some help (I had a councillor and doctor) and let them find their own way because they will eventually if you give them reason enough to. Sometimes it can just be difficult to see past the fear of the unknown, and the fear of letting go of something that appears to define you.
Love Abi x