Self Expression Magazine

Meal Plan SOS!

Posted on the 02 October 2015 by Onestory
I have one word to describe how I feel about the meal plan I received yesterday: DISAPPOINTED. Note the caps, the bold type. Also this: :( 
Still not enough to express my upset.
When I met with the dietician and requested a meal plan, I was as clear as I could be. I said I needed a structured alternative to disordered eating. I didn't want to have to make decisions, so that all I had to do was follow the plan. The most important thing was that it felt safe. We agreed weight maintenance was a good place to start, and spoke about nutritional needs. I hoped the dietician might be able to suggest some things that were a little less bleak than the offerings on my current menu.
To be able to trust the menu plan, I knew I needed specifics. No fist or palm sized servings for me. No, I wanted numbers, grams, cups and inches. Also lines, columns and preferably some arrows if she could find a use for them. The dietician asked me about the sort of things I would be likely to eat. She seemed to get it. It gave me hope.
It didn't happen, and now I'm desperate.
Meal plan SOS!
The dietician broke one day into six meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner and three snacks. Under each meal she listed the food group I was supposed to eat, and then one or two examples tacked on at the end. Like this:
1 starch + 1 dairy + 1 fruit
Eg. 2 slices of bread with jam, yoghurt and fruit
Afternoon tea
1 snack
Eg. 30 grams nuts
Along with this, there were separate pages with large lists of foods for each food group, that I was supposed to choose from. One of the 'snack' pages had twenty seven options on it. There were eighteen different starches to choose from. And I was meant to go ahead and mix and match.
Yeah, right.
The sheer number of items listed was enough to make my eyes water. I couldn't take it in. Choice is a big problem - that's why I asked for the dieticians help. I needed somebody else to draw up the plan so that I could keep my muddled brain out of the proceedings.
The examples she provided felt like an after thought. I'd expected them to be the basis of the plan, and to have maybe a few days mapped out exactly. She made suggestions on the spot, for instance for a protein, I could have chickpeas. As in, just open a can, and have them plain. I like chickpeas. But, um... isn't there some thought missing? Is this what dieticians usually do?
It was completely unspecific. There was no breakdown of calories or a even a daily total, which is essential for me at the moment. I asked her what it added up to - she didn't know, so did a quick calculation in front of me in less than twenty seconds.
The foods listed were vague as all hell. On the snack page were things like: one average piece of cake; one muesli bar; two cookies. HUH??????? Average? What's that? Which cake? Does it have icing, or chocolate bits? How about I make it my type of average, which is a slither, or none, or the whole cake, and then vomit it up, because I don't know what average is? How does that sound? Which muesli bar? Some brands have 300 calories or more, some a lot less. Which one am I supposed to go for?
As part of dinner, she had listed "2-3 vege", without saying which vegetables. For someone who didn't have a problem with food, this might sound like a reasonable guide, but no way is it adequate for me. A cup of peas has about 125 calories. A cup of tomatoes has about 30 calories. She told me the difference between vegetables didn't really matter. Hello??? I have an eating disorder. IT MATTERS. Why didn't she understand this? Further down the track, I would be trying to let my calorie obsession go. But not now. That's not where I'm at and it wasn't what we'd agreed to. If I couldn't trust the plan, I wouldn't use it. It's as simple as that.
I needed it to be safe, and it wasn't.
Some of the food the dietician recommended confused me. I know the idea with recovery is to restore balance, and I understand that some unhealthy food is fine. To be fair, she couldn't know all my personal preferences, as I'd only met her once before. But there were things on the plan that I wouldn't have expected to be there. There were Shrewsberry biscuits, iced biscuits, flavoured milk and soft drink. It seems strange to me - I'm not a little kid. Commercially made biscuits are rubbish - they have trans fats, food colouring, and flavouring. Potato chips make me feel disgusting when I eat them. I don't understand. I'm looking to fill a nutritional deficit here, not to load my system with empty calories and chemicals.
The other thing is - and this is crucial - I'm trying to convince myself that I deserve nourishment. I'm not going to feel good about putting this shitty food in my body, and never would have. It's not nourishment in my book.
I told the dietician I needed more specifics, so we went through and added some more details - like the type of bread, nuts and fruit. She wrote down the calorie requirement I needed to meet for each meal. The end result was an improvement, but no way was it the air tight plan I needed it to be. I didn't trust her work by that stage. The lack of care put into it made me sad, and I was so disheartened I just wanted to get out of there. I cried all the way home and most the evening.
Healthy me would be able to deal with this situation. I have enough knowledge. I could whip up a concise plan, have it laid out, color coded and looking pretty in no time. But healthy me is AWOL, and I cannot piece it together. I have so much anxiety attached to food, my brain simply freezes.
I wanted this to work so much, and I feel really let down. The people at my clinic seem to have an aversion to structure, but it's what I need and I tell them over and over again. Eating disorders are their speciality, so why this is hard? My needs surely aren't unusual. I've seen plenty of others in the recovery community (You Tubers) waving their fancy, detailed meal plans about. I want what they have, and I don't know how to get it.

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