Wondering how to eat when struggling with binge eating, extreme hunger, food obsession and an disordered eating?
In this article let's discuss if you should be eating only whole foods in your recovery or if you should be eating processed foods as well, and why!
Common struggles in recovery around Whole Foods are:
Holding on to the "whole foods only ideology" is this last-ditch effort of the eating disorder / disordered eating mind, trying to hold on for dear life.
These limiting / disordered beliefs are trying to survive in your brain, as you try to push in new beliefs to replace them.
It’s when you say to yourself, "okay, I've done all of the things, cut back on exercise, challenged myself on adding in more carbs, gained some weight, got my period back... but we can’t eat anything but Whole Foods, "in the name of health."
...But in the meantime, you still feel fear, anxiety and stress around processed foods, your digestion is suffering and you find yourself binge eating here or there on processed foods...
and you end up prolonging your recovery and ability to experience true mental freedman peace and not getting your full health back because you’re not giving into this part of the recovery process, that is, incorporating those last "fear foods" - i.e. the Twinkie on a road trip or whatever..
It’s this last part of control, fear of letting go of control, fear of things "spiraling out of control" and the fear of the unknown of "what’s going to happen if I actually let go of this last piece?"
And whether you hit this stumbling block early on in your recovery or it’s later on in your recovery, and you’re just trying to speed things up and not being patient with your body..
What you want to consider out of anything is this: your body’s going to hold on to weight anyways, when you're coming from a past of restrictive eating and your metabolism is low, whether you eat the cookie or the apple, your body's going to gain weight.
And, as you may know, I too tried, and tried, and tried, and fought, and fought, and fought to maintain a whole foods only recovery.
But I got to a threshold where my body (if it could talk) 😆 was like:
And our minds are like:
"no, that Oreo cookie flavored protein shake is really what I’m craving. I'm not really craving the Oreo cookie.."
BUT, if you’re really 100% honest with yourself, truly 100% honest with yourself, deep down...
Are you craving the sugar free, oreo cookie flavored microwaved protein mug cake, right now?
Are you seriously craving the Apple right now?
Because if you’re coming from a passive restriction, it’s hard to believe that, that’s true.
And at one point, I honestly did crave a lot of fruit when I had restricted fruit at a certain point, like when I was doing fitness and in a caloric deficit, and I had to count my blueberries, and only have 1/2 of the banana... 🍌 😔
...but it got to a certain point where that’s not all I was craving...💭 🍩 🧠
That’s not the threshold of my incorporating my fear foods, let alone processed fear foods, into my recovery.
That was just a stepping stone.
And then, it was like, "Ok, now I want donuts and I want lots of chocolate and I want pastries and I want a lot of bread and I want pizza and I want burgers and I want to go out to get them.... I don’t want to have to try to make the healthy alternative here at home, and I want ALL OF THEM, RIGHT NOW, IN ONE SITTING."
Can you relate?
First of all, let's go over this common thought, that you’re going to gain a lot more weight if you eat processed foods versus if you did your recovery on whole foods only.
What I typically see a lot, aside from my personal recovery journey but also now working with hundreds of people around the world in their recovery for years now...
....is that a lot of people may come to my channel and they may hear me talk about eating unrestrictedly - ie eating as much as your body’s asking for and specifically eating more of the processed foods..
Well, you could only imagine how many people get pissed off at me and say, “Oh no, that’s just not going to work for me.”
And then they go on and they tried to do these other recovery routes such as "high carb low fat whole foods plant based recovery" or "whole foods only recovery in general" (which I refer to as quasi recovery or pseudo recovery because it’s just restriction with a mask.
(because the person is actually craving some processed foods, but simply has decided in their minds it's not healthy therefore it's not a matter of, I'm only craving Whole Foods, but I'm craving processed foods, but I'm not going there...)
It’s like the Wolf in sheep’s clothing.
It’s still restriction.
And so a lot of them do eventually come back around a year or two later, and they report:
"I tried to fight myself and I tried to recover on Whole Foods only and I still feel in the same place, if not even worse. I still have the major digestive problems, my period is irregular, I still have the cravings, I still feel like I'm fighting my body in certain ways. I still have extreme hunger or binge eat. I still feel cold all the time. They still feel obsessed and anxious around food. I still have constipation, and I'm still gaining weight..."
...all of the long lists of restriction symptoms and they just don’t feel free or at peace in their minds around food.
It’s not what they envision their life to be when they think of freedom or recovery.
So they come back and they often say,
“You pissed me off at first and I left, but now I’m back because I want recovery and I don’t feel recovered. Even trying to do these other recovery approaches.”
Typically they try to do those other recovery methods because they think that eating those ways, is somehow going to lead to less weight in the short term.
And that these other recovery approaches, were not going to make them gain as much weight overall.
So the fear of weight gain - that’s honestly the main underlying fear and stumbling block for a lot of people.
They don’t want to gain weight, but a healthy amount of weight gain is what needs to happen in recovery for healing.
Some more than others and some bodies want to be at a different weight than others (body diversity).
But if you’re coming from a past of restrictive eating, excessive exercise and deprivation in any way and you just can’t maintain the misery it brings anymore...
...then you’re going to have to gain weight because the weight where you’re at, where you’re trying to fight your body and you have to restrict yourself in some way to maintain that weight, that size of clothing, etc, then that means it’s not healthy for you.
And so that means you’re going to need to gain weight either temporarily or permanently and get to your actual optimal set weight point.
Alright, let me get back on track here... 😆
Adding in those process foods you're craving and have been avoiding, what I've seen is, you don’t gain MORE weight if you include processed foods in your recovery versus trying to do whole foods only recovery.
What I actually see is that the people who tried to do whole foods only, are still fighting their body...
They’re not giving into what their body’s really asking for...
...And so since this is just another form of restriction, your body perceives that as a threat just like any other restriction...
and because your body is asking for THIS THING and you’re giving it THIS OTHER THING "that you think is better for you"
...(because we think we know better than our intelligent bodies, because that’s what we’ve been taught.)
And so your body still thinks:
"I’m still in a famine. I’m being deprived. I don’t feel safe. We’re not in a safe environment yet. I NEED a lot of energy, and I can't get enough energy with Whole Foods only right now..."
In the meantime, while you’re approaching your whole foods only recovery, your body’s going to hold onto weight as a conservation mechanism like we’ve talked about.
And the body is going to continue to hold onto weight because the body still doesn’t feel like it’s safe.
And the more that your extreme hunger is going to feel stronger towards those processed or off limit foods that you still deem as bad
...and your brain and thoughts are going to get more and more extreme..
...the cravings are going to become stronger and stronger
...your digestive, hormonal and metabolic health might stay the same or get worse.
So in the meantime, your body is holding onto weight because it doesn’t feel safe and it’s not getting what it wants.
It’s not getting EXACTLY what it’s asking for, consistently.
You’re still not all in, not listening to your body, and you’re not trusting your body.
So what typically happens too is you end up like thinking:
💭 initial craving: "I want a brownie"
💭 thought response: "Oh no that’s bad, that’s processed, I should go have the protein bar.
🍽...eats the protein bar
💭 ...still thinking about the brownie...
🍽 ...still eating the protein bar, fantasizing that it was the brownie...
💭 "that brownie though..."
💭 "still hungry.... I'll have an apple, that'll curb this craving"
🍽 eats the apple...
💭 still hungry....
🍽 ...has a glass of water...
🏃♀️ ..goes and distracts yourself... takes a walk, takes a shower, calls a friend
💭...still thinking about those freakin' brownies...
🍽 ...binges on a whole plate of brownies.
...So you’ve had all of these whole foods and the brownies.
So you might as well of just like had the damn brownies and your body would have been satisfied quicker if you just had the brownies!
You end up consuming even more calories and feeling more bloated, that your body didn’t even want, because there was something (energy) in the brownies that your body wanted and it knew only the brownies could satisfy...
...because the body is intelligent and has memories of certain foods and what they provide and encompass and what they’re going to do for your body.
And so you end up eating even more than if you were to have just had what you were craving initially.
Bargaining as it pertains to food, doesn't work with your body.
Same goes for eating as many brownies as the body wants, not just 'a' brownie if your body wants 'thee brownies...'
💭 you: "ok, I’ll have the brownie."
🍽 eats a brownie, drinks water, walks away distracts self...
🧍♀️body: "nope, not enough, I wanted the whole plate of brownies.. I’ve been starved. You’ve starved me and now you’re still not giving me what I want and claiming that this is recovery."
You see your body feels unsafe.
The body then starts to hold onto more weight, lowers the metabolism because it doesn’t feel safe and isn't consuming enough energy to rise.
And this is the route to you ending up holding onto even MORE weight than you would have if you just would have, from the start, incorporated the foods that you were truly craving, and eating until satisfaction.
Or maybe what happens is, the more that time goes on, the more you crave different foods and more processed foods, the more that you break down these barriers and challenge yourself, instead of getting stuck.
Then your body’s like, "Oh, okay, like we’re not in a famine anymore. Now I can ask for all these foods that we haven’t gotten in so long and that it needs."
And this is compared to the person who let’s go, trusts the body and goes all in.
And typically this happens when the person tries ALL THE THINGS, every other thing and they’re at a point where they're so fed up.
They’re so done, they’re exhausted of fighting their body and fighting food.
They just can’t do it anymore.
So this is the only option and route left.
So they surrender, commit and give in.
They let go and they surrender to their body and then, they let recovery happen to them.
Or there’s the people that just do it from the start because they’re like, you know what? This is it. I am committed from the start, screw it.
And so they eat the processed foods, they eat it consistently, and they eat them enough and they’re not compensating at all.
Of course, they may feel guilt, frustration and anxiety for this decision, but it’s exactly what their body was asking for.
And their body senses, "I’m being fed, I’m being listened to. I’m being trusted. I’m being honored. Finally, after so many years of being deprived and neglected, here it is."
And the body starts to trust slowly.
The more that you have all the foods in a balance.
And yes you may put on weight quick, but the quicker the weight gain, the quicker the recovery.
Typically, the thing that prolongs one's recovery is us getting in our own way.
Us getting in the body’s way.
We’re trying to fight it.
We’re trying to hold on, trying to hold on to some form of control in our recovery, trying to compensate in one way or another.
Having extreme amounts of mental anguish, mental guilt, mental shame, mentally fighting the process mentally not accepting, letting go and just surrendering.
And so the mind gets in the body’s way of just doing what it wants to do, doing what it’s designed to do after prolonged energy deficit, famine, time of deprivation.
Both parties (the whole-fooders & the all-in-ners) put on weight and they both put on the same weight.
It’s not that the processed foods people put on even more weight, they may even actually put on less weight than the whole-fooder, person because their body is sensing that they’re safe and they’re being fed exactly what it’s asking for and as much as it’s asking for, and so their recovery may be even shorter.
Because the quicker that you gain the weight and weight restore to where your body wants to be, the quicker that you incorporate all of the foods that it’s asking for...
...The quicker the recovery is going to be.
Now you don’t want to get stuck in that mindset of: "okay, I got to get this over with and I want it to be quicker and if I’m doing this and why is it like taking longer?"
You don’t want to get in that mindset obviously, but I’m just here to say that from what I’ve seen, is that incorporating process foods, and even if that means majority of processed foods for some time in your recovery..
...then that’s okay and that’s what’s going to get you healed.
I know contrary to popular belief, but we’ve all done what we’ve been told, right?
And so if that was going to work for us, it would have a long time ago and it would have for the masses.
But more and more we see people struggling and suffering from the diets, from the restrictive eating plans and from the suppression of our natural weight.
And so to get a different result, we’re going to have to do something completely opposite, completely unheard of.
And people are going to think you’re crazy.
People think I’m nuts. 😂
But then they go on and complain about how they hate their body, that they wish they could eat what they are craving but they can’t because they’re guilty and just a food addict....
All the diet talk, while I’m sitting back thinking, "all you could do is just, go through this process and you’ll be free."
But not everyone is ready to hear it so you can’t fight it.
But just remember, that in your recovery, you’re doing something that’s not widely talked about nor really understood.
You’re going completely against the grain.
But to find that freedom that nobody seems to have around you, it requires doing something completely opposite completely different to achieve that freedom.
And that’s the saying that got me through this when I started to say, "this is unhealthy. How could I be doing this right now? How could I justify this right now?"
And everyone around me telling me I was nuts and it wasn’t going to happen.
I stuck with recovery, and repeated this mantra:
"sometimes, in order to find the answers that you’ve been desperately seeking, you have to go against everything that you’ve learned to be true."
It takes going against all of that because you can’t do the same action to get a different result.
That’s just insanity.
So yes, this process feels really lonely and people around you are going to question what you’re doing and you’re going to question yourself because you’ve heard all of the statistics and the science and the this and that and this person and that person and this book and that book and this source telling you what health encompasses...
BUT...where did it get you in the past?
And you're going to have people around you saying:
"you’re really going to eat that other piece?”
Or “Oh, you don’t want to go from one extreme to another, do you?”
"yes, but everything in moderation"
And yes, I agree, to an extent.
You just have to find the balance, but "that" balance and moderation is just a disordered form of balance.
It’s not real, freedom and balance.
It’s just forced balance.
...And so you start to question and you think, "well, maybe I should be eating more whole foods. This is nuts."
But, in the meantime:
Overall, I would suggest that you eat exactly the foods that you’re craving.
And not compensating with healthy alternatives because you think that you "should," that’s not going to get you recovered or offer freedom and peace.
This will only feed and perpetuate the binge restrict cycle indefinitely.
And your body is only going to be left feeling deprived more and more.
You may challenge some things here and there and feel a little bit more free, but you’re never going to be free if you continue to restrict a certain list of foods.
The only way to get out and find full freedom, is to eat unrestrictedly.
Not restricting types of foods, and not restricting portion sizes.
And if you’re not eating exactly what you want, 100% like truly deep down what you’re really craving, then you’re not eating unrestrictedly and then you won’t get recovered.
So to find your balance, it’ll happen on its own.
It won’t be forced from you.
It won’t be by you consciously choosing the healthier alternative over the processed craving that you’re having.
It’s not going to be a conscious effort.
It’s going to be your body directing you and guiding you and your balance is going to look different and it’s probably not going to look anything like you used to eat in your dieting days.
Again, it’s not going to be your conscious effort.
It’s going to be your body doing it.
Your body will guide you through it on its own.
It will whenever it’s ready, it happens.
It just takes time and you’re not going to go from one extreme to the other.
You’re not going to go from restrictive dieting and restrictive eating to binge eating disorder or emotionally eating.
This is exactly what your body needs.
This is exactly how the body responds to deprivation and long periods of restriction.
Finding your balance and all of that.
It won’t be something that you do earlier than it’s naturally supposed to happen, and it’s not going to happen at a lower weight than where your body wants to be.
It’s not going to happen by eating in moderation when truly deep down you’re craving all of these sugary foods and you never get through that phase of eating sugary foods all day long.
Those catch phrases that I listed earlier are just restriction in disguise.
And I know it’s really, really hard to hear people around you saying that because I had to hear it too, and I still have to hear it like everyone around me.
But what I also see with them is that they’re unhappy with their weight.
They’re always talking about how they needed to lose weight.
They’re always talking about how they shouldn’t be eating that or they’re just insecure and not satisfied.
And they are always talking about the new diet or exercise regime.
But then they’re tired and fatigued and irritable and that’s all they can talk about in their life.
So is that what you want?
And if you think that there’s something wrong with you, there’s not, it’s 100% normal to be craving mostly processed foods.
But then it’s a matter of, what kind of processed foods are you even talking about?
Because what processed foods is to one person, is a safe or "healthy" food for another and vise versa.
For some people they think that they’re like challenging this fear by eating some olive oil, you know?
So it may come in stages too.
So if you find yourself questioning your eating habits, but you’re following what your body is asking, then keep following your body.
Don’t follow the questioning, the doubts and the fears and all of that, question what feels right.
And if you’re following your body, that’s the best guide because something external is never going to get you the answers that you’re seeking.
It hasn’t worked before and it’s not going to work in the future.
The only way is to listen to your body and then be patient with your body while it heals.
Your body is the only thing that you have at the end of the day.
So continuing to hurt it through restriction and deprivation is not something that you want to do. Just honor your body for once it knows what it’s doing.
Alright so, overall, you’re not going to gain more weight if you eat processed foods versus whole foods recovery.
You’re probably going to gain even more weight trying to adhere to a whole foods only recovery when deep down you want more processed foods, that’s just what I see.
We did so much better when we didn’t have like nutritionists and nutrition labels and Google…
Anyways, enough of that rant!
So if you want to get recovered, then you have to let go and step into this 100% not 80%.
80% commitment in your recovery will get you 80% recovered, 100% commitment in your recovery we’ll get you 100% recovered.
I hope this article has helped you in some way.
I send all my love to you and wherever you’re at in your journey, and you’re doing awesome for continuing forth and believing.
So keep going. You won’t regret it.
xx Kayla Rose
P.S. I’m hosting a free masterclass specifically for people who want to stop feeling obsessed around food and truly heal their metabolism and you’re invited! Click here to sign up.