When I was at university and struggling with anorexia, my diet was very…homogeneous. It was uninteresting and typically the same every day. I would eat a bowl of raw oatmeal with fruit for breakfast and a salad for lunch. Every now and then, I would have a small serving of another cafeteria dish or a bowl of fruit for supper. On rare occasions, I would go out to a restaurant and eat with my friends. Eating out was always stressful. I was worried about what I would buy, how much I would eat, and if my friends would realize that something was wrong with me and my eating habits.

For my entire Freshman year of university, I ate salad almost exclusively for lunch. I don’t know when it all changed, but one day, I decided to buy a sandwich instead of a salad. From that point on, the very thought of eating another salad was sickening. I would become nauseous just thinking about it. It’s not that I don’t like salads. I used to think they were delicious. But to my brain, eating a salad was a sign of scarcity, and scarcity was bad because my body was starving. Even to this day, I have a hard time sitting down and eating salad. For example, tonight I walked into a  salad bar, hoping I would find something that sounded good for dinner. The more I tried to psych myself up to the idea, the more repulsive it became. I decided to buy a taco from the store next door.

I tend to go through these fads. Last semester, I went through a shredded wheat cereal fad. Every morning for breakfast, I had shredded wheat and fruit with sugar-free almond milk. It’s not that this was a bad meal, but it was the same every single morning. At school, I would crave a variety of breakfast foods such as avocado toast, peanut butter and applesauce on toast, pancakes, crepes, and biscuits. But all I ate was shredded wheat cereal. When I got home for the summer, I didn’t touch cereal for a month. Instead, I ate avocado toast almost single meal for about three weeks. Then I couldn’t touch avocado toast for another month.

Your body will crave what it can’t have. When I restricted my diet to salad and oatmeal, all my body really wanted was calorie-dense cookies, cakes, ice-cream, pizza, and everything else that was forbidden. I’m in recovery now and I work very hard to give my body what it needs (and also what it wants—in moderation). But I still tend to go through these fads. I’m now working on being creative with my meals and including a variety of foods in my diet. I am also learning to give myself a break. I used to beat myself up for refusing salad. I was sure that everyone was judging my unhealthy meal choices. But today, I recognize my internal struggle and I remind myself that salad is not the only healthy option available.

The most important take away from this article is: listen to your body and your internal voice. Ask yourself some probing questions when thinking about food. Am I hungry? How hungry am I? What am I craving? Do I feel like restricting? Do I feel like binge-eating? Why am I feeling this way? What emotions am I experiencing?

Listen to your body, be kind to yourself, and be creative with what you eat! I love you and believe in you!