Candace is a former Intensive Outpatient Program patient at TBITC and wanted to share a major success for her recovery from Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Meal planning is one of the biggest challenges for those with eating disorders, and she found a way to make it an inclusive experience with her family. She shares her victory below.
There are eight mouths to feed in my family ranging in age from 13 to 86, and that doesn’t include the four-legged variety. Dinners are costly, complex and painful. Everyone has different preferences, some of which are VERY strong but not shared by everyone else (I’m a self-proclaimed pork-a-phobe), or dietary restrictions (I’m allergic to that, etc.). My poor mother has to cook dinner for this unruly and often ungrateful lot. Trying to figure out what to make each night so everyone (hopefully) will enjoy it, how much to make so everyone gets some (we’re all on different schedules), and ensure we actually have the ingredients on hand was driving poor mom around the bend. I love my mom. We had to figure out a better way.
What I came up with was collecting a list of everyone’s favorite main dishes (more than thirty) and their favorite sides (again more than thirty). We put these on index cards and one Saturday morning I was able to scare up help from my daughter and daughter-in-law to turn the dining room table into a giant calendar to lay out a month of meals. When we were finished we could tell who put the menu together. For example, broccoli is on the menu frequently, and none of the dishes my daughter-in-law doesn’t like are there. Those are the perks of participation. I did offer for everyone to join in the planning. It’s not my fault if they chose not to. Then I took the table size calendar and loaded it into a free calendar template on my laptop, printed it out and taped it to the fridge. We pulled out the recipes for the next two weeks and started the final step, turning the menu into a shopping list.
We shop every two weeks. It is a monumental task. I literally do a whole body shutter when I think about grocery day. The good part is that with the menu and recipes in hand I knew exactly what I needed and what I didn’t, which helped tremendously.
It has been a total success for the following reasons:
- My mom knows what to make every night. That’s a big stress reliever for her.
- Everyone knows what’s for dinner that night. If they don’t like it, they can make other arrangements. My mom has even started a group text and sends a reminder of what’s on the menu to us all each night! Go Mom!
- We have all the ingredients. No more mid-week trips to the store because you’re missing an ingredient, which always ends up costing a lot more then it’s supposed to because you impulse buy.
- There is always enough for everyone now and sometimes enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Bonus!
- The meals are balanced. There is protein, carbs, veggies, fat and dairy.
- Meals are ready at a specific time every day so people can plan and eat accordingly.
In terms of my recovery from my eating disorder, it helps by taking away a lot of the stress. What should I eat? When should I eat? How much should I eat? Should I really eat that?
The first thing they taught me in IOP was there are no good or bad foods. It’s ok to eat anything, just not everything at once. (Yes, I have BED. Can you tell?) The trick is to be mindful about what you’re eating. Taking away the fear of some foods was very hard for me. But making a menu in advance helps. There’s a democratizing aspect to the food once it’s on the menu. It makes the upcoming meal feel normal and natural and safe to eat.
Before the menu, there have been many times when I have literally walked in a circle in my kitchen trying to figure out what to eat going from pantry to fridge to freezer to pantry, muttering to myself.
Can’t eat that. It’s a carb.
Oh, another carb.
Ooh, complex carb, sorta healthy – takes 30 minutes. But I’m hungry now. That won’t work.
Finally, ED wins and I start picking. Just one cookie while I figure out what to eat.
Maybe some pretzels.
I haven’t had protein yet. I should eat protein. What am I going to do?
Cookie! Cookie! Cookie….
And I am now in the middle of binge land. Might as well stamp my passport. Is it just me or has anyone else had this experience?
Having the menu gives me time to accept what I’m going to eat that night so it doesn’t freak me out. I can be mindful. I can have some of everything and check in with myself. Am I still hungry? Should I keep going? Should I stop?
So far this has been working amazingly well for me and my family.
Bonus tip – you can put the recipe on the back of the index card, too!
From Guest Blogger, Candace T.