Confessions of a Food Restrictor.

Via Anne Falkowski
on Oct 22, 2012
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“When life is hard, you have to change.” Blind Melon

In 2009, I made the decision to face my disordered eating. It was a dark creepy crawly which followed me around for more than half my life. (It is not unusual for women in their 40s or older to have untreated eating disorders for twenty, thirty or even forty years.

I decided it was time to let go. I could do this. But I needed help. Yoga wasn’t quite enough.

So I called the experts and landed myself in an office the color of fog and ocean. Soft blues, browns and grays. The colors of healing. I supposed because this was a place for anorexics, bulimics and eating disorders not otherwise specified (like myself). There was a large rubber plate of fake food next to the tissue box. On this fake plate was a mound of beans, a thick slice of bread, a pile of broccoli and an unidentified piece of meat. I liked to run my fingers over the beans and feel their lumpiness.

It was in this ocean room while I fingered the beans when Mark told me I was a restrictor. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Wouldn’t I be thin if I did that?” As always, I was hyper-aware of my fat-padded body which refused to be the size I wanted it.

“Well, not necessarily.” said Mark, a registered dietician trained to work with eating disorders. His hand reached up to touch his tie. Mark always wore a shirt and tie. He was twenty years younger than me and at first his youth threw me. How could a clean cut baby-faced twenty something counsel me, a middle aged woman who had been dealing or not dealing with disordered eating probably longer than he had been alive? But over time he proved himself.

He told me that we cannot pick the bodies we want. I wanted to be slim, slender, thin, and bony. Any and all of the above. “It doesn’t work that way. We don’t get to choose our bodies.” Mark said and held my gaze with kindness. He was not going to back down.

“So what if I’m a restrictor. You mean I don’t eat certain foods or I hold back on the amount I eat? Isn’t that normal? I think everyone does this to some degree.” Not for the first time, I mentally noted that the rubber mound of beans were more than one serving of food and who would eat both beans and bread at one meal? Too many carbs.

Mark explained to me as if he had said this one hundred times before, “A restrictor is someone who counts calories.

I interrupted him. “I don’t count calories. So old school.”

“Or,” his voice got firmer, “someone who has so many rules around food and the rules give more power to food than food actually has.

“I’m a yogi. Of course I have rules around food.”

Mark ignored my yogi comment and continued, “When you give food more power than it should have and continuously restrict, some people’s brains become obsessed.

Well that was truth. My brain was obsessed. If I wasn’t thinking about food, I was thinking about losing weight or about how my body was too fat. All the time. All the fucking time.

“And then what happens is you start overeating, binging, or develop weird eating habits to compensate for the restricting.

He pegged me. For the next six months I worked closely with Mark to undo the damage of restricting. He had me write down everything I ate so I could get a clear look at my eating patterns.

He had me throw out my long list of rules and trust that I knew how to eat in a way that served me. No food was off limits. For the first time in years I ate fish and chips with tarter sauce, cheeseburgers with french fries and downed it with a coke. I lost ten pounds. But more importantly I became unafraid of food. My cupboards could be filled with potato chips, Oreo cookies or kale and it didn’t matter. I no longer stuffed food down my throat, engaged in three-hour work-outs for damage control, or bargained with myself that I would eat nothing but rice cakes the next day.

I wish I could say the story ended there but disordered eating is not so simple; it looks for holes where it can slip back in.

When my home-school hippie friends all went raw, it was seductive. I fantasized how beautiful I could become ingesting all that vital alive food instead of cooked dead food.

When it became hip to renounce gluten, renouncing wheat tempted me like cocaine. My mind envisioned the svelte lady I could be giving up bread and pasta. But through my work with Mark, I knew these ways of eating were ultimately restricting and making harsh rules around food to lose weight would trigger my lopsided ways. I had to trust my body knew what it needed.

This past summer I ended up with a severe case of acid reflux. I tried to listen to my body but no matter what I ate- it burned. After extensive blood tests, my naturopath told me to give up wheat, dairy, soy, corn, coffee, sugar and alcohol. Maybe forever, maybe not. “We’ll have to see how it goes for you,” she said business like.

Hearing her words, I started to freak. Danger. Restricting. Go directly to jail and don’t pass go. What if I ended up out of control- starving and overeating-and never feeling safe or satisfied? I had thirty something years of that shit stained mattress. I finally chucked it and didn’t want to sleep on it ever again.

In the end I decided to take on the restriction diet. For the healing of my gut. But it has turned out to be so much more. I realized that this is not about restriction for thinner thighs but for optimal health. If I lose weight, so be it. If not, I understand that getting thin is not what its about.

It has been three months and the burning in my stomach is all but gone. My skin is clearer and my eyes are brighter. I feel calm inside. Is it the absence of inflammatory food or is it that I realized I can ban certain foods and not lapse into disordered eating and body hatred? Do I crave a piece of bread or a bowl of ice cream? Yep. From time to time. But I also know that I can eat as much other food as I want. There is no limit. And if I wanted a bowl of ice cream bad enough I would have one.

I feel like I have come all the way around now and can finally let go of food rendering me powerless.

Food can heal. Food can harm. But in the end food is just food.

The work I did with Mark on examining my rules and trusting myself around food, played a big part in my ability to give up certain foods, whether temporary or not, without returning to out-of-control eating or self-hatred. Because thats what disordered eating and body-image issues are: self-hatred, low self-esteem and lies.

Hey Body—I think I love you. These days I am so much more than just a body.

Whenever we choose to walk the path of healing, we change the direction of our life.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta


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About Anne Falkowski

Anne Falkowski has been teaching and practicing yoga for over 15 years. Currently she is obsessed with Forrest Yoga and can’t possibly relax her neck enough. She writes for her blog and owns a yoga studio in Connecticut. Contact her by email


19 Responses to “Confessions of a Food Restrictor.”

  1. Valerie says:

    Always love your articles! Authentic, tender and strong. You are a great role model for women.

  2. Gentle says:

    I'm forwarding this to my husband, who often accuses me of "being exactly where [I was] when we met 8 years ago" in terms of my disordered eating. Now 35, I have a much stronger sense of self, have expectations not only of myself anymore, but also of my partner, and have learned to identify and meet my needs in comfortable-to-me but still assertive ways. I have grown, and I will continue to grow. It's not just about my body and food. It's about all of me. Thanks for putting this out there.

    • Anne says:

      I am right with you on also learning how to identify my own needs outside of food and communicate them. I think that alot of us with the food/body issues are masters at meeting other people's needs but need to learn how to meet our own. It is so not all about the food. Good for you.

  3. hereisakiss says:

    It takes courage to put yourself out there like this. We should all be so real…

  4. Noreen says:

    Food is also chemicals, especially when so much of it is engineered and manufactured or processed. It not only affects our body but also our brain and other vital organs and the way they operate. So hard to get it right and balanced in our current culture. Again I applaud your sincere effort to write on the topic (body image) that is such a life-changer for so many women. How many women dwell on thoughts that are focused on wishing they had someone else's body and feeling less-than because they don't? How many of us fail to see the goddesses that we are? Articles as brave as this will surely inspire others to chip away at the layers of thought that are hiding the lights within. Namaste, Goddess Anne!

  5. Kristina says:

    you will help so many people with thisi Anne- once again a beautiful , real piece

  6. Prema says:

    Very good story, and, not that it matters, you look like a twenty-something yourself.

  7. Mindy says:

    Thanks Anne. Food is so confusing when there are so many different appetites and lures. I didn't know for 50 years that I was celiac. I tried many different eating plans: macrobiotic, raw, nourishing traditions, etc. Yet each even though so different had something that challlegned my devitalized body. Raw had nuts, and though I limited them, I didn't have the vitality to digest so much raw. Nourishing traditions soaked grains but there was barley. And macrobiotic had rice. From such a long time of digestive inflammation (invisible and deep inside) I was allergic to a growing list.

    I never had "celiac" symptoms like digestive problems, but I had skin and bone weakness and trouble. That was how the inflammation expressed in my body. SO much misinformed MD's and GI specialists. I got help from studying everything. Unwrapping the problem. Now I am 58, gluten-free (but not eating the processed junk that is pushed on the marketplace). I also must be mostly rice and grain free. I eat grass fed meats, health fish (vital choice) veggies, and some small amt of fruit. Eating out is challenge but workable at places I trust and that care, and socially friends are rising with such love. It isn't easy, but my eating disorder came out of food just not making it through my body with ease and safety. Bulemia helped me ease some hunger but not inflame my digestion. So sad. i hope others challenged find their way.

    I love your sharing. Thanks so very much. Each way is different, but it helps so to hear and get ideas from others.

  8. lisa says:

    another great post Anne Falkowski!…and yes, for me, i focus on vitality…which means abstaining from certain foods..but the focus is health and not a fear based "diet mentality. well stated and i just bet many people will be helped by reading this!! thanks anne!! ♥ ♥ ♥

  9. Feather says:

    Very inspiring to read about your journey

  10. jenya says:

    I love this article. Our society is saturated with disordered eating, you are not alone! Your description of this experience offers positive and empowering insights for those who are struggling. You captured the importance of allowing the process adequate time, as true recovery is a powerful transformation from the inside-out.

  11. Lizzy Girl says:

    So true, so true, so true. Very inspiring Anne. It's beautiful to see that you continue to evolve in a loving way.

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  15. thanks! says:

    Thank you for writing and sharing it. Be sure that you inspired and gave extra energy for at least one person today (me). 🙂

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