Just Say "No" . . . To Salad?

I am a salad addict. This has nothing to do with being a disordered eater and former anorexic, either. Even as a kid, I loved to hit the salad bars at restaurants, and would make wondrous (yes, wondrous) salad beasts for myself in high school and into college.

Unfortunately, not all of the salads I eat are as nutritious and filling as the one pictured above. This particular concoction boasts guacamole, yogurt, black beans, salsa, and maybe a bit of cheese in addition to a hefty pile of veggies. Too many of my salads, however, have been thinly disguised volume eating at times (which I don't think is necessarily bad) and binges or emotional eating at others.

My worst misuse of the humble salad came during my eating disordered days, as you might expect. I would make a humongo bowl of lettuce, low- or no-fat salad dressing, and whatever other odd vegetables I might have on hand and consider that a meal. I liked how the large salad (like the one at left) filled me up with as few calories as possible. This wouldn't be such a terrible offense if I was trying to lose weight, and even if I was the body still needs healthy fats and proteins. And I didn't need to lose weight . . . but did, thanks to these "empty" salads.

As I entered treatment for anorexia, I continued to eat my voluminous salads, but supplemented them with more substantial nutrition. Long after I entered recovery -- i.e., now -- I kept on pairing every dinner and many lunches with a large salad. For example, I might make a homemade pizza for dinner, and then devour at ginormous salad in the same sitting. I've been resisting the reality that these salads are residual disordered behaviors, even though the thought has long been nagging at me. Salads are supposed to be healthy, right? So what's the harm in enjoying a big old bowl of lettuce every day?

The answer (at least for me) is that there is no harm in the salad -- it's the related behavior that's the problem. Salad has become my go-to comfort food. When other folks might curl up in front of the television with chips or trail mix or other more traditional"snacky" items, I throw together a big salad and crunch away. The supposed virtue of salad lets me fool myself into thinking that this is okay. But I'm realizing more and more that it's not okay for me right now. It's time to let this security blanket go.

Again, it's not the salad that's the problem. It's the fact that I'm essentially binging on the salad. Also, my body doesn't need or appreciate downing a massive pile of fiber only a few hours before bedtime, and I often wake up bloated and uncomfortable as a result. What's more, thanks to these salads I go through a sizable store of fresh produce with amazing speed, meaning that the Best Husband Ever and I make weekly Costco trips to restock. We're trying to cut back our grocery spending (which really means my grocery spending, for the most part), and I realized that empty salads have got to go.

Does that mean I won't be eating salads anymore? Not at all. But I will be making sure that my salads comprise a true meal in and of themselves, instead of serving as a massive accompaniment to the "real" meal. I'm hoping that replacing my empty salads with beastly ones will reduce our grocery spending, help my belly both feel and look better, and help defeat the lingering traces of my disordered tendencies.

What is your opinion on this? I'm very interested to hear your thoughts. I think this post could easily become a hot, sensitive topic, especially in the health foodie community.

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