The MinnieMaud Method is pretty popular right now with those in recovery from eating disorders. It’s also causing a bit of controversy over on the blogging site Tumblr. You may already be acquainted with MinnieMaud (abbreviated to MM). You may already be following it. You may have your doubts about it. You may be hearing its name for the first time. Whichever of those you identify with, here’s a fact about me: I am someone who has reached remission by loosely following the MM Guidelines.
Now there are a certain few people who make all kinds of presumptions about you when you mention that you used MM to recover. I’m not sure why but they assume to know about your personal beliefs, how you feel about the creator of the MinnieMaud Guidelines (Gwyneth Olwyn), and what views you hold, amongst other things. But enough of them. Here are my honest thoughts about MinnieMaud, Your Eatopia, and Gwyneth Olwyn.
As I said above, I loosely followed the MM Guidelines. I used them as just that: guidelines. I weighed myself for a long time, even though the guidelines warn you not to, before I realised that – surprise surprise – this did not help me in any way and was actually hindering my recovery. I realised that aspect of the guidelines was totally correct, and so one day I just stopped, and I’ve never weighed myself since.
I exercised on and off and on and off, because I found it too hard to do what I really should have done and stopped exercising full stop for a long time. I would listen to the guidelines and give up exercise for a few months, before trying to incorporate it back into my life in a healthy way. It never worked, and I would fall down the rabbit hole of exercise addiction, only to have to drag myself back out of it again (so I really advise you to follow that guideline – seriously, just do it). It was only in remission that I was able to have a healthy grasp on being active and not sinking into a relapse with it. However, I can tell you that it requires being super vigilant at all times, not to mention being really, truly honest with myself (which is of utmost importance in both recovery and remission).
I never followed the calorie guidelines exactly, as my hunger cues were always reliable. I had extreme hunger, as expected, and then my appetite tapered down. Sometimes I was eating 2,500 calories. Sometimes I was eating 4,000 calories. I listened to my body, and it worked. Eventually, after two years, I ended up in remission, eating an average of around 2800 calories a day. I was lucky when it came to hunger cues. Lots and lots of people do not have reliable or accurate hunger cues. This is why it is dangerous to not eat the minimums militantly for quite a while. I took a risk. I probably shouldn’t have, because if I had done that with unreliable hunger cues, I would probably have ended up in relapse, or significantly slowed my recovery down. The reason things are black and white in recovery with the MM Guidelines, is because if you let there be a grey area, your eating disorder will be all over that. The grey area is where the eating disorder will sneak it, and start to alter the rules and play its own game. People need black and white to fight their eating disorder. It is in remission that you can look back at this and understand why. I’m not trying to patronise anyone that is not recovered by saying this, but things really are much clearer from the other side. Just trust me on that one.
As for the creator of Your Eatopia, I do not think that Gwyneth is a “god”, which followers of MM sometimes get accused of. I think Gwyneth is a wonderful, knowledgeable, dedicated, hard-working, empathetic but firm, patient person. That does not mean that I think she is perfect. I do not agree with everything that she writes on Your Eatopia. I do not believe all of her information is flawless and supportive of her arguments. I do not believe that everything she states is fact. The thing is, science changes, all of the time. We come across new information that points in all different directions to what we first believed. However, all we can go on is what we know now, and readjust our beliefs when we learn new information. Not all of the detail within Gwyneth ‘s arguments is conclusive evidence to her arguments. I can’t say that all of the science behind her writings support her. I can’t say that because I have not read all of the studies – I just don’t have time to do so, and I’m sure some of them can be interpreted in different ways. What is important to me is that overall, her points are logical. The big picture makes sense: Extreme hunger is absolutely a thing. I am 110% sure of that. We absolutely require far more energy than the government-approved guidelines, and those energy requirements are around minimums. Through Gwyneth’s articles I also learned about a lot of less disputed things about recovery that I would never have learned about had I not come across Your Eatopia, such as the various digestive issues, refeeding syndrome (extremely important), edema, exhaustion, aches and pains, the different stages of recovery, and why exercise is bad in recovery (kinda should have been obvious but you know, eating disorder denial). I also learned about health at every size, ortherexia, diet culture, the genetic link to eating disorders, weight set point theory, anorexia athletica, and the misdiagnosis of BED (do I believe BED exists? Yes. Do I think that many people get misdiagnosed with BED during recovery from a restrictive eating disorder because they are experiencing extreme hunger? Yes. I began to understand that food isn’t my enemy, and neither is my body.
Not only is the site itself so informative and has helped me understand so much about my eating disorder and myself, but it offers the forums. I can’t explain how much support I received from members there when I was anxious and in doubt. Ultimately, it was up to me to change my behaviours and thought patterns, but the support that was offered to me when I was scared and had nowhere else to talk about these issues was invaluable. The Your Eatopia blog provided me with information, and the forums provided me with emotional support, helpful advice, and lots and lots of love. I have not received so much warmth and sincerity anywhere else on the internet.
Still, I had questions about some of the things Gwyneth had written about in her articles, so I took it upon myself to email Gwyneth directly. Quite a few times. I remember writing those emails, and I can recall my anxiety and doubt as I typed out my questions to her. She always responded; always took the time to converse with me about the topics that I brought up. Sometimes I still have questions for her, and she still always replies to me. Do I fully agree with everything that she writes back to me? No, not always, but she gives me something to think about; something to work with, every single time. I can also say that going over old emails and looking at them now from a healthier place, I can see how much my eating disorder fuelled my fears. I could not see it then, and no one could have made me see it. You can only really see that stuff when you look back at it. However, it was Gwyneth that pointed me in the right direction, and I got there in the end.
I absolutely believe in health at every size. I believe the body has a natural, health weight at which it settles and maintains whilst you are eating unrestrictedly. Our bodies come in all shapes, weights, and sizes. We are a species of variety. So I do not think it is ever okay for anyone, professional or otherwise, to set a goal weight for those in recovery from a restrictive eating disorder, especially when that goal weight is usually a minimally “healthy” BMI, or just above. As I said, our bodies are all different, and whilst some people may be healthy at a BMI of 19 or 20, most people will still be underweight, maybe severely so, for their own individual bodies.
I also firmly believe that doctors are not always right, especially when it comes to mental health issues, and specifically when it comes to eating disorders. Eating disorders are highly complex, commonly misunderstood, and very individual mental illnesses. There is not much known about eating disorder recovery: what works, what doesn’t work, and unfortunately not much research on the subject. The success rate for full eating disorder recovery is much lower than you would hope. Doctors and others do not have a lot to go on but their own personal experiences (limited), what they have been told (also limited, as mentioned above), and both of the former are tainted by the society we live in, which has been indoctrinated by diet culture. Whilst doctors are to be listened to, when it comes to eating disorders, what they say should not always be taken as fact. Listen to what they say. Research it. Make informed decisions about your mental and physical recovery. Most importantly, do what you feel is right for you (for you, not your eating disorder).
MinnieMaud is not the only method that advocates these calorie amounts in recovery. It is not the only method that calls for the cessation of exercise during recovery. It is not the only method that realises that the body will need a vast amount of calories to repair the body after intense starvation. It is not the only method that disagrees with the notion that once at a minimally “healthy” BMI, you should stop gaining weight and maintain. There are many recovery methods used in inpatient settings, by therapists, by doctors, and by other professionals that do not have a specific name, but have similar ideas about what is needed for recovery. There are also many who don’t, but MinnieMaud is not the only method to use these types of guidelines by far.
I am open to discussion. I am not militant when it comes to MM. I am very aware of the fact that new research is being done all of the time on many, many topics that is related to eating disorders, eating disorder recovery, and food/weight/dieting/bodies in general. I don’t know the ins and outs of every single thing to do with those topics, but I’m getting the overall picture, and I think I’m getting it right.
Do I believe the MinnieMaud Guidelines are a good method for recovery? Absolutely. Do I advise following them? Absolutely. Your Eatopia helped me to save my life. I don’t think I could have reached remission without it.
That is my stance on MinnieMaud, and about recovery. It is my stance on Gwyneth Olwyn, and Your Eatopia. It is my stance on doctors, and the aspects of recovery from a restrictive eating disorder. I probably could say more, but for now, I will leave it at that.