When I (Ashley) first started my journey towards eating disorder recovery, I recall one simple phrase that I thought to myself over and over again: “What the hell do I eat now?”
Having followed various food rules for so long, I was at a point where my brain felt inundated with contradictory, confusing nutrition information. Not only that, but I was just dipping my toes into intuitive eating, a way of eating characterized by tapping into your inner hunger, fullness, and satiety cues to guide eating in a way that works to prevent bingeing and promote wellness; but how was I supposed to eat “intuitively” when starting at the fridge felt like walking into a battlefield? I knew I was supposed to be giving myself unconditional permission to eat all foods, a tenet of the intuitive eating model, but I still held onto so much fear around foods that had felt almost addictive during my eating disorder.
I was desperate for guidance; for someone to tell me what to do, what to eat, and the “best” way to move forward. This entire line of thinking of course was still highly disordered, begging for the structure and rules that dieting provides. But I couldn’t go from the impossible demands that dieting and eating disorder behaviors enforced straight to the no-rules-zone that was intuitive eating. It was too much, too fast, and it paralyzed me. Luckily I was able to find a coach who told me what I needed to hear: “You have the tools. You know what you’re doing. You just need to trust yourself.” I had finally been given explicit permission that it was my own guidance I needed, not the guidance of a food plan or a pre-packaged grocery list. Not everyone has access to such support though, and that in-between phase can be frightening.
So how do we ensure that we are being adequately fed when we first enter eating disorder recovery and start to explore intuitive eating, but have no idea how to access our intuition around food and our body yet? We seek out recipes. We search high and low for someone to tell us what to eat. But the kicker is that this can send us right back into disordered eating, because so much of the current mainstream rhetoric around recipes and food is coded with moralized language and focused on the “health” benefits of this, that, and the other. So how do we support people entering recovery, curious about intuitive eating, scared and bewildered at where to begin, and still vulnerable to triggering language floating around in the media? We create a resource; a food and recipe resource that provides examples of different snacks and meals that someone might like to try. We give people an opportunity to explore flavors, textures, and combinations that they otherwise may have been too nervous to seek out, or too out of touch with their own flavor preferences to even consider. We inspire people to try, try, and try again, in a space free of health talk and triggering numbers. We are not here to prescribe meals, calorie counts, or rules. We are here to give you some options; help you feel out the waters of this brand new lived experience. We hope you find it useful.
Fall has technically arrived and I couldn’t be more pumped! Here are two simple recipes with fall flavor to kick off the best season of the year (in my humble opinion!).
Baked Macaroni and Cheese, recipe sourced from Bon Appetit (Serves 4)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
¼ ounce Parmesan, finely grated (about ¼ cup)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more
8 ounces cavatappi or other short curly pasta
2 ½ cups whole milk
½ small onion, grated
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Fontina cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
4 ounces Gruyère, grated (about 1 cup)
4 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated (about 1 cup)
½ teaspoon English mustard powder (such as Colman’s)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko and cook, stirring, until crumbs are golden brown, 6–8 minutes (make sure to get them toasty brown; they won’t darken much during baking). Transfer to a small bowl and toss with Parmesan, thyme leaves, and ¼ tsp. salt.
- Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente (the noodles will continue to cook in the cheese sauce, so take them out a minute or two before you think they’re actually done). Drain pasta; let cool while you make the sauce.
- Bring milk to a bare simmer in a small saucepan; keep warm. Melt remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onions are fragrant and beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to stick to bottom of saucepan, about 1 minute. Add warm milk in a few additions, whisking to combine after each addition.
- Bring béchamel sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until sauce is thickened and doesn’t feel grainy when a little bit is rubbed between your fingers, 6–8 minutes (cooking the flour thoroughly at this stage ensures a creamy sauce). Add Fontina, Gruyère, cheddar, mustard powder, cayenne, and ¾ tsp. salt and stir until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and mix in pasta; transfer to a 2-qt. baking dish.
- Bake 10 minutes. Top with Parmesan breadcrumbs and bake until sauce is bubbling around the edges, 8–10 minutes longer. Let cool in pan 15 minutes before serving.
Pan-Seared Sausage With Lady Apples And Watercress, recipe sourced from Bon Appetit (Serves 4)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lady apples, halved through stem ends
1½ pound sweet Italian sausages
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 bunch watercress, trimmed (about 6 cups)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat oil in a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples, cut side down, and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 5–8 minutes.
- Prick sausages with a fork, add to skillet with apples, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 10–12 minutes. Add wine and vinegar to skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened (liquid should coat a spoon), about 4 minutes. Add watercress and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with pan juices spooned over.
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Written by Ashley Seruya, BA
Are you ready to move forward on your Recovery Journey with more food freedom?
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Following the Recipes for Recovery Cookbook will help you:
- Reconnect with positive eating experiences you had before the eating disorder
- Explore new flavors, colors, textures and aromas that connect your senses
- Experiment with previously forbidden foods that bring awareness to the present moment
- Challenge and let go of food restrictions and rigid rules to rekindle a healthy and fulfilling pattern of eating
- See success as you continue to discover food freedom
Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She is certified as an eating disorder specialist and is passionate about helping women at midlife, menopause and beyond to make peace with food and body image.
Erica is a highly sensitive nutrition therapist who takes the time to learn where you or your family are in the pursuit of health. Respectful of your individual needs and lifestyle, she will provide an honest assessment of whether or not you are a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see which of our Dietitians is the best fit for you!
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