When it comes to following a meal plan it is a little easier, as you can then remind yourself that what you are eating is what your body needs. Like a cake... one meal is one slice of the cake and your aim is to eat the whole cake so its divided into 6 slices and each meal is one slice and by the end of the day you have eaten enough. (Maybe a bad reference... but i hope you get it): But when it comes to eating freely one of the things which seems most scary is eating too much. Or you have this fear that certain foods will make you gain weight or will change your body or just aren't good for your body. But the first thing to remember is that unless you end up binging you won't eat "too much". Even if you are a normal weight most people can eat more some days and still not gain weight or their body changing. When it comes to eating more freely then you need to think of the "cake" in terms of a week.... in a week you want to eat the round cake and it is cut into 7 big slices (1 for each day of the week) and then how you decide to cut one slice into different meals per day doesnt really matter... (I dont really know where i am going with this, but trying to explain that if one or a few meals are bigger or different than usual during the week it doesnt really matter because it balances itself). And even if you are on a meal plan and you go and eat a whole pizza for dinner with friends instead o eating your usual dinner, it wont affect your weight or body either.
When it comes to the anxiety and guilt you may feel, you need to remember that 1 meal is just one meal.... it wont change anything and doesnt mean that you shouldnt eat again. Eating is a constant thing, something you need to do everyday, several times a day.It is not enough to eat once and think that that will get you through the day, because it wont. You need to try to realise that food is energy, it is helping your body. So what you ate more or ate a fear food? That is energy which is helping your body... helping repair your body or giving you energy so that you can live and function.
When you feel guilty and want to compensate, ask yourself what compensating will do.... are you choosing your eating disorder or a healthy life? What will happen if you dont compensate..... Why not try not compensating, fight against the anxiety and the guilt... know that on the other side it is a lot better, but then you have to get through the tough times. Try to take one meal at a time and forget the rest of your meals... forget the ones you ate, forget the ones you are going to eat. Just focus on the now. Focus on the meal you are eating and know that each time you eat you are giving your body energy and that it doesnt matter what you ate before or what you are going to eat later, your body still needs energy now.
If you know you are going to eat at a restaurant for dinner, that doesnt mean you eat a small lunch and skip an afternoon snack. If you know you are going for brunch one morning, that doesnt mean you restrict and eat every little the day before.... no, you take each meal as it is and eat what your body needs right then.
I know this post might not be so helpful, but that is because it is hard to give advice about this topic... because the only thing you need to do is to eat and face the anxiety. Face the guilt and the fear and see food as it is, energy and something your body needs... but also an enjoyment. Because eating isn't a chore, it is an enjoyment as well. And your body will always need food and energy and hopefully one day you will be able to eat intuitively and listen to your body and then you forget about what you ate yesterday, or the meal before because you can listen to your body and cravings and eat what your body needs and wants. But it is a process of listening and trusting your body and taking the negativity and fear away from food.