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Some sufferers from eating disorders get themselves into a habit of using specific "binge foods" such as fats or fruit or almost anything. This is just a habit that can be broken once the cravings are no longer stimulated by sugar and refined carbohydrates. Sufferers from anorexia should be abstinent from sugar and refined carbohydrates, even though they are high-calorie foods, because they stimulate the cravings that they fear will never stop. Once anorexic patients are abstinent from these substances, they can learn to trust food again.

Artificial sweeteners are the equivalent of non-alcoholic beer for alcoholic patients: they keep the sense of taste attuned to what we used to like. The risk of artificial sweeteners is the same as the risk of alcohol-free beer: sooner or later we crave the real thing. Many eating disorder sufferers have well-developed addictive relationships with diet drinks and sugar-free gums. These have to be avoided. Similarly, adding salt and pepper and various spices and bottled sauces to our food will tend to stimulate the appetite excessively and keep our taste buds over-stimulated. It is best to avoid these substances altogether as additives and allow ourselves to develop a sense of taste for the more subtle flavours in food. Sufferers from eating disorders tend to like to eat stronger, sweeter, saltier, spicier foods than most people and therefore it can take several months for our taste buds to get used to normal flavours.

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is often present in Chinese and Indian food and is best avoided, as it is a general sweetener and preservative. We need to retrain our palates to enjoy foods that are less sweet. In recovery we soon learn how to choose dishes in a Chinese or Indian restaurant or elsewhere that do not contain MSG.

If a label has a sugar listed in fifth place or lower in the fist of ingredients then the traces can be considered to be negligible. However, this is just a general observation and we should initially avoid any substance that makes us crave, irrespective of its position on the label, although we should be careful of becoming - or remaining - obsessive on this point. White or brown sugar, sucrose, maltose, lactose, glucose, dextrose, caramel, honey, malt, molasses, cane or win syrup, S011olt0l, ma-161, saccharin and aspartate should all be avoided. For carbohydrates it is easier to list the safe carbohydrates: wholemeal bread, wholewheat grain crackers, whole-wheat pasta, unrefined rice, wholegrain cereals and potatoes. Watch out for "wheat flour" that is refined and often present in sauces as a thickening agent, although wheat itself is no risk. Brown bread may be white bread, made from refined flour that has been stained brown. Only wholemeal bread is safe. Wheat flour itself in its unrefined form in bread is perfectly safe. It is the refining process, not the particular grain, that causes the cravings.

Summary of an Abstinent Day

Eat three meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner - every day. When travelling inter-continental distances by air, have four meals on the long days and two on the short days.

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