5 Benefits of Caloric Beverages in Recovery
Katy Harvey, RD, CEDRD
It’s common for people with eating disorders to be scared of drinking their calories. Public health efforts aimed at reducing our consumption of “sugar sweetened beverages” have perpetuated this fear, which is rooted in fatphobia and weight stigma.
You’re probably thinking, Wait, what? How’s this related to weight stigma?
The assumption is that liquid calories make us fat. And heaven forbid they contain high fructose corn syrup (*sarcastic gasp*). As if somehow that makes these drinks even more shameful.
Again, the fear is of becoming fat - as if this is the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. We have programmed our society to believe that being fat is 1) a choice, 2) unhealthy, and 3) something we should avoid at all costs. (Spoiler alert - none of these are true.)
Let’s consider 5 benefits to liquid calories:
By definition, anything containing calories is an energy source for your body, because that’s what calories are - energy. The notion of “empty calories” is an utter misnomer that needs to be abolished. Some marathon runners fuel their runs with Coke - it’s just energy!
Liquids digest easier and more quickly than solids. Often the eating disorder makes the digestive tract sluggish, so the liquids help things move through faster, making the person less uncomfortable. Liquids are also less filling than solids, so they are gentler on the stomach.
Anything liquid “counts” towards hydrating your body. Yes, water is great, AND other beverages are a nice way to keep things interesting and pleasing to your palate.
Caloric beverages can contribute to nutrient intake in meaningful ways. For example, juices and smoothies contain lots of different vitamins and minerals. Milk gives us some protein and calcium. A latte provides the nutrients from the milk, along with carbohydrate from the flavor syrup.
Pleasure and enjoyment
They taste good! Life without mimosas, milkshakes, slushies, apple cider and sweet tea just wouldn’t be the same.
If you weren’t worried about calories, what beverages would you want to drink? What would taste good to you? What would bring you enjoyment? These things can absolutely fit into your recovery. In fact, I’d challenge that until you’re comfortable drinking caloric beverages without guilt or shame you’re not fully recovered yet.
I understand that some people have specific reasons that they might need to limit the amounts of these types of beverages. For example, someone with insulin resistance or diabetes will need to limit the amount of carbohydrate they consume in one sitting, and they’d benefit from having protein with it. Yet this still doesn’t mean that these beverages are “bad” or “unhealthy.”
You do not need to be afraid of drinking your calories. In fact, doing so may actually be helpful and fun.
Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City. She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.