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Meal times should be as regular as possible. Some sufferers find excuses to have breakfast at 5am or put dinner off until 11pm. We need to learn to keep within normal timetables, such as having breakfast at 7 - gam, lunch at 12 - 2pm and dinner at 7 - 9pm. These are guidelines only and may not suit shift work. However, it is important to have three meals well spaced throughout the working hours.

Bulimic patients should avoid using the lavatory for at least one hour after each meal and they should try to remain in the company of other people rather than isolate themselves at those times. Meal times in early recovery are likely to be vulnerable and uncomfortable times and it is therefore a good idea to talk about feelings at these times. Anorexic patients should eat with other people at regular times and allow themselves to be seen to be eating.

The quantity that we should eat at any time should be determined by physical hunger, the same as for other people, rather than by the need to satisfy orsuppress motional cravings in one way or another. Food is a fuel for the body, comparable to putting petrol into the tank of a car. A normal quantity of food is easily determined by recognising whether we would be perfectly happy to exchange our own plate of food for that of someone else who does not have an eating disorder. If the prospect of doing so as us with fear - that we will have either too little or too much - then our perceptions are still being ruled by our addictive disease. Second helpings should be avoided.

The total quantity of food that we require in any one day is that which enables body weight to remain constant without continually thinking about it and without using exercise, laxatives, diuretics, strict control of food intake and various purgative processes as control mechanisms for body weight.

In the early days of abstinence some guidance may be useful on the concept of normal eating, but making out particular "food plans" or having "food sponsors' can be dangerously obsessive. It gives food a power that it does not possess. There is no need to count out exact weights, portions or calories. We need to learn to eat according to genuine physical hunger rather than emotional cravings.

Body Image

The approximate ideal body weight or goal weight for someone suffering from an eating disorder can easily be determined from medical charts, even though those charts tend to under-estimate the range of healthy weight for a particular height or body frame. It is not determined by fashion, or by any individual patient's feelings of what he or she ought to look like, feel like or fit into. Recovery is about getting away from trying to control our feelings through our addictive relationship with food and exercise and through changing our physical appearance.

We do not need even to talk about food or body weight. Body weight will vary a few pounds on a day-to-day basis in any case, according to body fluid content. Attempting to

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