Dealing with a Restrictive Diet in Eating Disorder Recovery

August 5, 2018 Grace Bialka

When put on a restrictive diet for medical reasons, navigating eating disorder recovery can become even more difficult. Learn how I'm doing it at HealthyPlace. /blogs/bingeeatingrecovery/binge-eating-coping-skills-binge-eating-recovery/2018/8/dealing-with-a-restrictive-diet-in-eating-disorder-recovery

A restrictive diet in eating disorder recovery seems counter-intuitive but it can be necessary. Eating disorder recovery is a tough thing to stay on track with. It can become even more difficult when you have to restrict your diet. Here I share my experience of this and how I am managing to sustain recovery on a dairy-free restrictive diet.

A Restrictive Diet for Stomach Issues

I'm on a restrictive diet because for the past few years I have, every now and again, dealt with stomach issues. I experience severe pain, sickness, and find it hard to function as I normally would. Since these episodes have become more frequent in the past months, I decided it was time to see a specialist.

The doctor ordered a series of tests for me and also told me that I was not to eat dairy anymore. I fully understood the purpose of this restrictive diet but at the same time, this simple instruction completely shook my system. I have learned through my recovery not to restrict or eliminate any food group. What I was now being told to do was the exact opposite.

I now had to rewire my thoughts to rationalize that removing dairy from my diet was something that my body needed. This was not the choice of my eating disorder, this was doctor's orders. I'm not going to sugarcoat this -- it was an extremely hard process for me to get through and truly find acceptance with. 

Challenges of a Restrictive Diet in ED Recovery 

Having finally accepted this reality, I have managed to stay dairy-free while still fully following my meal plan. I have found suitable substitutes to fulfill the dairy products that I once ate. 

This process was slightly triggering for me. When at the grocery store, I was forced to read nutrition label after nutrition label, making sure what I was buying would not cause my stomach to act up. This took me back to eating disorder days when I would not purchase any food item without knowing all the information the label could offer me ("How to Face Down Your Triggers in Eating Disorder Recovery").

However, now that I have a better understanding of dairy-free living, I have to do this less and less. 

The other challenging part of this process has been craving foods that I can no longer have. Part of this is caused by knowing I am not able to have them, the other part is that I simply miss eating them. I've combated these cravings, which eventually turned to urges, by reasoning with myself and using rational thinking. If I were to eat this food I so deeply craved, I would feel physically awful and probably emotionally awful as well. 

My advice to you if dealing with a restrictive diet similar to mine is to be gentle with yourself. This is a difficult transition when you are so used to your routine with food. Talk to a dietitian for suggestions and try not to freak out if you start to fantasize about the foods you can no longer consume, it is completely normal. 

You can do this. Keep believing in yourself. 

APA Reference
Bialka, G. (2018, August 5). Dealing with a Restrictive Diet in Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Grace Bialka

Grace Bialka is a dance teacher and blogger in the Chicago suburbs. She graduated with a BA in dance from Western Michigan University. Grace has lived with an eating disorder and depression since the age of 14. She began writing in hopes of spreading awareness about eating disorders and mental illness. She firmly believes in the healing power of movement. Find Grace on TwitterFacebook, and her personal blog.

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