When it comes to eating disorder recovery a whole set of tools is needed to complete your toolbox, and one of the most powerful tools is a meal plan. Now, for it to be effective it needs to be used as intended because unintended use can result in harm.
Unintended ways to use the meal plan include turning it into a diet, using it to beat yourself up if you can't follow it, and pseudo-following it in a way that colludes with the ED.
The meal plan is intended to be something concrete you can cling on to instead of the ED while you are learning and practicing the skills necessary for intuitive eating and coping with emotions. It gives you structure which stabilizes blood sugar, mood, hormone levels, and helps decrease certain ED urges by preventing you from getting overly hungry/full.
The meal plan also functions to break you out of your ED cycle, whatever it may be. It essentially re-calibrates your mind and body to know what normal eating looks and feels like. Once your hunger signals (part of your circadian rhythm) are normalized to the meal plan it becomes possible to start practicing more reliance on your body's cues for hunger and satiety. As you build more trust in these signals you will naturally progress toward intuitive eating where you eat according to what your body tells you rather than per the meal plan.
Interestingly, most people find after reaching intuitive eating that it actually parallels the meal plan most days because their body has gotten used to eating 3 meals per day plus snacks. Since the meal plan was calibrated to your body's nutritional needs, the amount of food you eat intuitively is often approximately what the meal plan called for (with lots of room for flexibility, obviously).
Don't underestimate the value in one of the most powerful recovery tools you have.
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