NO CALORIE COUNTING HERE: TRACKING “EXCHANGES”.

breakfast

After publishing my last blog post on the things I say “no” to, I had a few readers approach me on how choose the foods I choose eat on a daily basis. If you haven’t read my last blog post yet, I recommend you check it out. 😉 You’ll find that cutting simple words out of my everyday vocabulary helped me to recover from obsession about food while finding a well-balanced daily intake.

I decided to share a little bit of how I put a meal together here + what inspires the choices I make around food. Whether you are curious about changing the way you talk about food, if you have an eating disorder, are recovering from one, I’m, glad you’re checking it out. Since I don’t describe foods as “good”, “bad”, “junk food”, “healthy food” or use terms like “healthy fat”, I have been able to simplify my choices to put a meal together that is well-balanced that I truly enjoy. The strategies I use today were taught to me by Rosewood Center for Eating Disorders + my Registered Dietitian (R.D.) worked with me to help me adapt to a new way of thinking about food. By adapting food categories into the following, I was able to slowly let go of my obsession to count calories, categorize foods as things I can + can’t have + even things I “shouldn’t have” eaten. Here are the food categories, or “exchanges” that I still use today: Protein, Grain, Fat, Fruit, Vegetable… + that’s it! 🙂

If you take a look at the photo above, it’s the breakfast I made for myself this morning. It contains 1 fruit (grapes, raspberries, blackberries), 1-2 fats (avocado), 1-2 grains (sourdough toast)+ 1 protein (egg). *I do not eat this breakfast everyday + I really enjoy switching it up based on how much time I have to meal prep, if I’m eating on the go, or simply based on what I feel like eating. When I was first learning how to put meals + snacks together in my recovery, I was given a meal plan by my R.D. It was recommended that I ate 3 meals + 3 snacks per day. Each meal + snack was up to me, I could choose what I wanted to eat for each of them + I had a set of guidelines to make up my daily intake. I was given a guideline of how to count exchanges to help myself determine what was a full meal. An example of this is 1 exchange of fruit can be 17 grapes, 1 exchange of vegetables was 8 carrots, 1 exchange of grains was 1/2 cup of rice or pasta. At first I counted out all of these things + measured to ensure I was following my meal plan the “right” way. Then, I got comfortable with my exchanges + started to gain confidence that I trusted myself + knew things din’t have to be perfect. I didn’t count out my berries this morning + I din’t measure my avocado to know if it was 1 or 2 Tablespoons, but that’s what life is about.. letting go of having all the control + just enjoying the little things. (Happy dance) 🙂

Breaking my day down into meals + snacks: An example of breakfast is what I listed above. It was strongly recommended that I ate every 3-4 hours or so to get my body nourished + my mind working the way I needed it to. An example of my morning snack would be a protein + fruit of my choice (I like having nuts + berries but sometimes I have a hard boiled egg with a fruit leather or even peanut butter with a small apple. My lunch + dinner plans were something completely different, afternoon snack was a protein, grain + having a snack after dinner helped me find guidelines of  what was appropriate to eat at various times of the day. This isn’t to say that everyone else had the same meal plan, they were all specified for each of us based on our own needs. that was important to recognize. My meal plans have also changed + evolved as I recovered because I didn’t need the same intake as I did when I was first hospitalized, 1 year into my treatment, + 4 years into it. My body changed + my R.D. was mindful of that.

I have now been recovered for 6 years + I still use this guideline to help me plan meals. It took me a long time to embrace eating a predetermined amount of food but it was necessary as I had terrible habits around food. Some meals were tougher to eat than others because of ideas I had always believed + heard on the news or in magazines. I had to let those statistics I heard go + asked my family + friends not to comment or judge what I was working on toward my recovery. Now, I see my R.D. about twice a year to ensure I don’t have any bad habits creeping back in, to check in on my weight (since I haven’t weighed myself or known my weight in about 8 years), as well as for guidance on exercise + wellness check in’s. Many people with eating disorders are recommended to follow their meal plan for about 2 years after treatment + I totally recall telling myself that I would be done following a meal plan by January 2011 (2 years after I left treatment) but I was SO wrong. Everyone has different needs + for me, I needed to keep this guideline around to keep myself accountable. I’m thankful I warmed up to this way of life because I truly LOVE it now. It makes my life simple + meal planning a no-brain-er. 

As I mentioned, this isn’t for everyone, but it has helped me find balance in my life, take back my control when it comes to food + to be confident that I don’t have to restrict certain foods from my life + I can make room for all things I enjoy in moderation.  I love the freedom this meal plan + way of life has opened me up to loving food again instead of hating it or fearing I would make a “bad” decision about what I “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. If you want to learn more about meal planning, I recommend you work with a R.D. to find the exchanges that are right for you + what your body needs. I am no expert, but this plan has been a successful tool for me to forget the stress when it comes to food. Hopefully this post was informative + insightful as to why it’s important for me to have adapted this way of thinking + why I choose to keep it around after all of these years. Maybe you’ll want to make some changes too! 😉

xoxo,

Ashley

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