Should I use a meal plan, or eat intuitively?
Following a meal plan means eating according to an agreed upon timetable of 3 balanced meals and 3 snacks per day (with roughly measured portions of protein, carbohydrates, fats and fruit/vegetable sources).
Eating intuitively is about tuning in to and acting upon your hunger and fullness cues, and eating the foods you are craving in the moment, regardless of ‘health’ value.
For me, the most useful style of eating was somewhere in between the two. I had to loosen up on my rigid food rules, and also create some guidelines for myself, such as eating 3 balanced meals per day plus snacks as required.
Because I struggled with both restrictive and binge purge behaviours, I not only had to teach myself how to eat, but also how to stop eating. Both were difficult; I had a frustrating pattern whereby the anxiety I felt at the start of the meal meant I didn’t feel like eating, but then by the end of the meal, my binge habits would get triggered, and I would desperately want to keep eating!
I also had a lot of obsessional worries about food. For example, I constantly checked the fridge and pantry, because I was worried about the possibility of running out of food. I would also respond in anger if someone interrupted me whilst I was preparing a meal. These worries speak to the rigidity of my eating disorder, which over time, I had to very deliberately challenge.