When Repetitive Eating Becomes Disorderly

Hi! I hope you’re all enjoying a restful Sunday! I just finished the most divine breakfast. Two eggs fried in ghee, served over a baked yam mashed with coconut oil. I’m tempted to say this is going to be my new favourite breakfast, but one of my current challenges is to vary my meals, especially breakfast.

A lot of people eat the same thing for breakfast every morning; I get that. For the average Joe, this is no problem. If you can’t part ways with your avocado toast or cinnamon-raisin oatmeal, I’m in no place to tell you to. (Though if you’re consuming Pop Tarts and Diet Coke every morning, we might need to have a talk.) For the mentally stable, eating the same breakfast every day is probably just the innocuous result of simply liking a certain meal, or finding it convenient. When it comes to orthorexia, at least in my own experience with the disorder, repetitive meals are often a sign of intense close-mindedness coupled with fear of change. When I notice myself eating the same thing every morning because I literally cannot think of anything else suitable, I know it’s becoming a problem.

Breakfast is commonly touted as the most important meal of the day. Understandable. For me, however, breakfast is the most important meal of the day for reasons other than what most people consider it important for. In my life, an imperfect breakfast has the ability to ruin the rest of my day. While normal people can get over an undesirable meal and move on with their life, an unpleasant eating experience first thing in the morning will consume me for the remainder of that day’s waking hours. I’ll think about it all day long, sometimes to the point of making myself feel physically ill. This is why when I find a “safe” breakfast, one that is both healthy and delicious and sure to put me in a good mood, I’ll make it for days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, on end. It becomes a vital part of my morning that I can’t go without. Every night I’ll make sure I have the necessary ingredients for when I wake up in the morning. If I don’t, panic is sure to ensue. This is when repetitive eating becomes disorderly.

I remember a time not so long ago when my morning meal depended upon a ripe banana and an organic Fuji apple. I liked the banana to be frozen in three chunks, the apple sliced just how I liked it, and I would dip the two in either peanut butter or almond butter. (Side note: this breakfast was clearly not calorically sufficient, especially considering I often ate it after an intense cardio workout.) For quite a while, it was the only breakfast I wanted to eat. If one grocery store didn’t have ripe bananas, I would go to another one to find some. If that grocery store was also out, I would go to another. The same went for my precious apple. It couldn’t be just any apple. Oh no, no, no. It had to be an organic Fuji. This was an unreliable breakfast component, because organic Fujis are not always up to my impeccable produce standards. I could tell when they were good, and I wouldn’t buy them if the currently available batch looked suspect. Don’t even think I would buy another variety of apple. It was organic Fuji or nothing. And yes, I would grocery store hop to find perfect apples. (My orthorexia is okay with conventional bananas, but nonorganic apples are akin to a fistful of pesticides. At some point in my recovery process, I plan on challenging myself to eat one.)

There were times when I couldn’t find perfect Fuji apples, and I did dare to venture into other apple territory. This created a lot of anxiety around breakfast time. Oftentimes it “just didn’t taste the same” and I berated myself for eating something even though I didn’t genuinely enjoy it. (This is an orthorexia topic that deserves its own post in the future.) Had I been willing to eat an entirely different breakfast, I could have avoided this unnecessary anxiety. The problem was, I’d eaten the same breakfast for so long that I couldn’t even imagine what else I could make to replace it.

These repetitive breakfast phases do end, though. When one ends, another begins, and then that breakfast becomes the most important part of my morning. This. Is. Not. Healthy. Breakfast is important, yes, but it should not dictate whether your day is going to be a good one or a bad one. This goes for all meals, not exclusively breakfast, but since it’s eaten in the morning, breakfast has more potential to wreak havoc on a day.

This is why I’m currently trying to challenge myself with breakfasts. My most recent breakfast phase was sautéed cherry tomatoes, two scrambled eggs, and half an avocado. I noticed myself starting to get sick of this combination, yet I continued to eat it because I couldn’t think of anything else to eat. This is no way to live; all it does is anchor me to my orthorexia. There are a lot of healthy breakfast options out there for me to explore. I’m not saying I won’t ever eat the same breakfast a few days in a row, but I’m making a strong effort to not let my fear of change keep me from eating a variety of breakfast foods. Even a small change is a change: fried eggs instead of scrambled, sweet potato hash instead of a baked one, a little bit of cheddar cheese with my scramble, etc. Mixing things up takes me out of my disorder, of which routine is a huge component.

It’s clear to see (I hope my apple and banana example adequately illustrates this) the difference between a mentally healthy person’s repetitive eating and an orthorexic’s repetitive eating. The former is one of enjoyment and possibly indifference, while the latter is more rooted in obsession, fear of change, and reliance on routine. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy my repetitive breakfasts, but in the scheme of things, they do more harm than good. They feed my orthorexia more than they feed my stomach. This topic is the perfect example of how something so trivial to most people can be so paramount in the life of an orthorexic.

If you find yourself in a breakfast rut, ask yourself if it’s truly a rut, or if there’s something more dysfunctional behind your inability to be flexible. The thought of eating something else should not bring on a sense of panic. I’ve already noticed a decrease in my anxiety simply from switching up my breakfast foods. It might sound silly, but in the world of eating disorders, little changes like these are imperative to the recovery process. Every morning when I fill my belly with something new, I’m starving my eating disorder just a little bit more.

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