The Mammoth Task of Meal Planing

Everyone with an Eating Disorder will understand the pain, stress, annoyance, reliance, comfort and every other feeling associated with the challenge of ‘Meal Planning’. There’s times I get really into it and if I’m feeling positive it can really help boost motivation for the week ahead (whether it lasts or not, is a different matter, but I’ll take anything that might help right now). At other times when, in my mind, I need to restrict what I’m eating or if I’m really struggling to be around food or with binges/purges or my weights a bit all over the place, meal planning is such a chore and can take hours (that’s no exaggeration)! In these circumstances, I often come up with unrealistic plans of thin air for snacks and fruit for meals, that I’d like to think I can stick to but in reality it’s near impossible. I end up with a massive wave of guilt that over comes me because, on a certain day I may feel like I can eat more, but realising I’ve had more than planned is devastating, which often leads into a binge/purge cycle! If I had planned in something a bit more substantial, I’d probably not have been so overcome with food thoughts and hunger that I may have stood half a chance of surviving the day B/P free. Equally, if I plan when I’m feeling overly optimistic (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) I end up planning more than I’d be comfortable eating on a day I’m not feeling so great and the wave of guilt will strike again and the end result is the same. It’s a very fine balancing act between enough vs. too much vs. too little. And one I’m still working hard to perfect, despite it being ever changing!

I haven’t meal planned properly as of late. It’s been a whirlwind week. I’ve started dating possibly the most supportive, motivating man I have ever met. Which is a massive blessing in its self. When I’ve been with him, meal planning hasn’t been a priority. We’ve eaten out or one of us has cooked, for the majority it’s been spur of the moment decisions and I have felt surprisingly comfortable with it, being in company. There has been some panic and feeling out of my depth but its been managable. Not planning and attempting to just wing it has unfortunately had its back lash. When we haven’t been together and I’ve had no plans one of two outcomes have occurred. Either, I won’t eat, at most may have some fruit, or ‘meals’ will end up as binges/purges. As you can imagine from this the lack of planning has resulted in a concoction of very positive, happy, successful, mealtimes or horrendously, disordered, disasterous mealtimes.

Obviously I’m not at a point where I can skip on the meal plans just yet and they are a necessary part of my recovery whether I’m in company and having a better day or not. I’m sat here this morning with my trusty meal planner pad, Tesco grocery app loaded and a list of things I’ve already flicked into my basket, have stocked up in my kitchen or really fancy, I’m getting my head in the game and planning for next week, determined to get myself back on some sort of track. You might be thinking, “ok, so you think up a few ideas for tea, what’s the big deal?” In reality it’s more than just thinking up a few dinner ideas. I really wish it was that simple! This morning I’ve sat for a solid 2 hours, thinking up ideas. Weighing up the calorie content, ensuring they’re balanced (fruit, veg, protein, etc.), trying to add variety, predict what I’ll be doing, when and how that will influence what I will or can be eating and things I may fancy. To start off I write in things I have to consider, who I’ll be with, where I’ll be and what I will be doing and also make a list of things I have in or fancy for the week ahead. Not just dinners. The whole lot. Breakfasts, lunches, snacks. Sometimes this list will be more optimistic than the reality of it, other times, more unrealistically restricted.

Feeling pretty positive right now, this weeks ‘ideas’ are somewhat optimistic and ambitious. I want to start cooking again so I’ve come up with things that are either, out of the packet or very simple and straightforward to make. As well as recruiting my Mum for a couple of evenings to oversee, assist and support. I’ve kept ready meals in the freezer (pre-preped meals for Harvey) as a back up plan, just incase things go to pot. All the ideas for each meal are very similar in ‘balance’ and calories so now it’s just a case of jiggling things around to fit in with other plans and so I don’t double up on things for lunches/tea and have enough variety throughout the day without getting bored of certain foods. Without over planning or under planning.

Anyone that knows me will know how indecisive I am. The process of meal planning helps remove some of that pre-meal panic and decision making. At the same time I will undoubtedly plan something, change my mind, re-plan it, change my mind and ultimately end up back at plan A. After following this process for every single meal and snack I have planned so far (I’m not entirely sure what next weekend will involve, so will hold fire on those plans for a couple of days, until I have a plan in place or an idea of what I’ll be doing), I am done, finished, completed! 3 hours later. Finally. Long winded, I know. Worth it? We can hope. Feeling motivated? Absolutely. I’ve been doing the online food shop alongside the meal plans so I don’t forget anything (mind fog, hasn’t done my memory any favours), don’t order things we don’t need and make sure I have enough of everything for my hollow legged Son! Now that it’s all done, it’s a huge weight off and I won’t have to think or worry or obsess over plans until the time comes, which is a hugely refreshing feeling.

So here they are, the plans for the week. Hours of ‘work’ and crossings/rubbings out and a tasty, hopefully successful week ahead!


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