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General Information

Eating should be a pleasure: the taste and process of eating should be enjoyable. Fluid retention, diabetes, thyroid deficiency and various other medical conditions can have an effect on body weight but can easily be controlled medically and should have no effect on the simultaneous treatment of an eating disorder. As a general rule for good health, one should drink one and a half to two litres (seven to ten cups) of fluid each day.

Bottled sauces are best avoided because many of them contain sugar or white flour or they may be very spicy and stimulate the appetite. They may also blunt the palate so that it becomes progressively less sensitive to delicate flavouring. Appetite suppressants should be totally avoided because they are addictive. It should be realised that nicotine, caffeine and diet drinks tend to be used as appetite suppressants. These substances are, in any case, addictive in their own right - whatever the reason for their use.

Laxatives should be avoided because they form part of the binge/purge behavioural addiction component of an eating disorder. Bowel function takes time to return to normal after years of abuse through an eating disorder. Patients with anorexia, for example, will often complain that they are "constipated" when what they mean is that they have the sensation of something in their bowels. This sensation is therefore not due to constipation but to hypersensitivity as a result of years of starvation. Taking regular exercise is healthy but as little as twenty or thirty minutes a day for three days a week is quite healthy enough. Exercise and the "high" it can produce can become an addiction in itself.

It takes about ten days for the emotional high and subsequent withdrawal symptoms from sugar to clear. Each sugar binge will result in its own withdrawal period. If you experience any craving to binge, purge or starve you should share these feelings with someone at the time, if this is possible. Cravings are not something to be ashamed about. Nor are they a sign that things are going badly. Indeed, they are entirely normal and they are common for an addict in early recovery.

So-called "forbidden foods", particularly in anorexic patients, tend to become an obsession. These patients often make lists of forbidden foods - usually fats, meats and wholegrain carbohydrates - that are all perfectly healthy. This obsession can even sometimes take the form of supposed food allergies and tactical vegetarianism (designed to produce weight loss, rather than from philosophical conviction). When we come into recovery it is important to reconsider what we are prepared to eat.

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