Recovery from any eating disorder takes time, patience, self love, support, and has several layers to it. The deeper you go, the more you find, and the more whole you become as you heal those deep inner wounds.
However, there are six elements to recovery that must be tended to in order to find deep recovery.
1.) Relearn how to eat regular meals. Eat three healthy meals per day, no restricting, no dieting, no skipping meals, no calorie counting, no carb counting.
2.)Learn to hear and honor the wisdom of your body. Ask your body what it needs in terms of nutrition and exercise and listen for an answer.
3.)Learn how to distinguish real hunger from boredom, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and other feelings that are hard to feel.
4.)Learn how to sit with these feelings without judgment and to allow yourself to feel what you need to feel. Understanding that feelings, all of them, are okay can help you to cope with them without using food to avoid them.
5.) Learn to accept your body the way it is. Understand that you are more than a body. You are a mind, a spirit, a soul, a being, and you have a lot to offer. Your value isn’t tied up in the size of your jeans.
6.)Cultivate interests and hobbies that make you more of who you are, so that your true SELF is who you really are, not the numbers on a scale.
An eating disorder doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t eat, or that you eat and throw up. All it means is that food, your obsession with food or dieting, or losing weight, or changing your body, or exercise, feels totally out of control. It means that you feel powerless against the drive to eat when you’re not hungry, or not eat when you are. It means that you feel powerless against obsessive thoughts about dieting, fitting into certain clothes, changing who you are. It means that your life, your body, and your mind has been taken over by your feelings about food.
What one thing can you do to either:
a.)change your relationship with food
b.)raise awareness about eating disorders
c.)get help for your eating issue
d.)support someone else who you think might have an eating issue.
Have you ever thought about all the real estate in your brain obsessing over food takes? What kinds of things would you have room to think about, what kinds of things could you do if food, dieting, and body image had less of a hold?
Some people use food to fill chronic emptiness. Others eat out of boredom, to add some excitement into their worlds. Some people use it to stuff down feelings that are too uncomfortable to feel. Many people believe that it’s unacceptable to feel anger, sadness, anxiety, or depression and push those feelings away with eating or obsessing about dieting and losing weight. Sometimes it’s not just feelings that people are avoiding, sometimes there are thoughts that they don’t want to think, events that they don’t want to remember, or life that they don’t want to deal with. Many avoid life by falling into the never-ending cycle of weight loss, weight gain, bingeing, starving, exercise, etc. It doesn’t leave much time in their brain for anything else.
Do you spend more time thinking about food and your body than other things? If so, what do you think you might be avoiding? What do you think you might be missing out on?
If you think about looking back on your life in 50 years from now, will you feel that you spent it obsessed with calories, numbers on a scale and numbers on a treadmill, or were you able to take advantage of all that life has to offer?
If you think that food and body image takes up more airspace than you’re willing to give it, or that you want to give it, you might want to try to make and effort to cultivate other, healthier interests. Don’t let food stop you! Don’t let your weight stop you! No, “I can’t do this or go their till I lose weight.” Try to work toward reclaiming your life. This is the only life you get. Live it for you, not for what you think other people are thinking or for what the numbers on a scale, a label, or a treadmill say. If you can’t do that alone, get support or help from a therapist, or a support person.
Often people talk about using your recovery tools when you are trying to stop a binge. But what does that mean? What are recovery tools?
Recovery tools are anything that you use to help you get to a recovered state. And that doesn’t just mean distracting yourself from eating. These are the actual things that you do to help yourself achieve a very deep state of recovery, where you are actively working on the underlying reasons as to why you act out in your addiction.
Top Ten Recovery Tools
1.)Journaling/blogging– writing about what you’re feeling and your struggles, feelings, thoughts. Often this can really help you to process feelings so that you don’t feel the need to binge.
2.)Getting Support. Going to a meeting, going to therapy, calling a support person, hopping online and talking to others about what you’re going through. The wisdom of others who have been through the same thing can be incredibly helpful.
3.)Painting, drawing, expressing yourself artistically. This is another way to process feelings.
4.)Using an alternative behavior notebook. You write down what kind of behavior you’d like to act out in, describe what you’d like to do, then write down why you’re feeling the urge to behave that way, what you are feeling emotionally and what brought you to this state. This is about understanding why you want to binge eat so that it doesn’t feel so elusive and out of control to you.
7.)Doing self care rituals (shower, bath, do your nails, etc.) to help elevate you so that you feel good about yourself rather than sinking into the depressive space of a binge.
8.)Thinking about the consequences of a binge. Perhaps even writing them down. Knowing that although you want to act out now, remembering what it will it feel like later.
9.)Walking slowly outside. (Don’t bring money or ATM card or credit card, nothing that you can buy food with.) Taking a nice leisurely walk is a recovery tool, because it can often help to clear the mind and get you back into a serene place where you don’t need to binge to feel better.
10.)Positive Self Talk. Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself that it’s okay that you want to binge, but that if you want to binge that there must be something else going on, and be gentle with yourself about that and try to be comforting and kind to yourself. No self deprecating talk, nothing like, “of course you want to binge, you have not self control, you’re weak, etc.” Instead, talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a child or your best friend. Kindly and with compassion.
What are some of your recovery tools that have helped you find success?
In her memoir, Nancy Makin describes what life was like for her as a 703 pound woman. Besides the intense physical trauma that her body suffered from holding that weight, the emotional trauma that she endured was tremendous. She was ostracized by the people in her building, and teased and taunted by complete strangers. As she became heavier, she isolated more and more. Eventually, she became a shut-in and stayed that way for more than a decade. Of course it was painful to go out into the world because of the reactions of others, but physically, movement was barely possible. She lived on disability in subsidized housing. If she had to leave her home, she needed the help of her friends or family as well as a double wide wheelchair just to go to the doctor. She slept sitting up, and showered sitting down, and would only leave her house at night when she was less likely to see encounter other people. She does not go into detail about what she was eating or how much she was eating. However, she does a great job of evoking the emotions involved, the loneliness she felt, and how she used food to cope with her feelings that seemed intolerable.
What I loved about the book is that she never discusses dieting, weight loss regimens, or what she did or did not eat. She never even specifically tells the reader exactly how much weight she lost (more than 500 pounds, we know that). That’s because the weight and the numbers were unimportant. This isn’t a book about weight loss, it’s journey to find self love and discover a sense of worth. Nancy never planned on losing weight. She was almost committing psychic suicide, by letting herself be taken over by her food issues. Randomly, her sister brought her over a computer with internet access. She started connecting with people in chat rooms, and as she became more active, she began to feel a sense of connection. People looked to her for support and guidance and as she gave that help to people through chats, emails, and personal insights, she began to feel a sense of purpose. She began to find her worth and her value in the world. When she began to have purpose, food became less important to her. It wasn’t her world any longer. She was spending so much time nurturing these relationships and receiving nurturing, that she stopped using food to take care of herself with. She noticed one day that she was losing weight. As the weight came off and she started feeling better about herself, not just physically, but really liking herself as a person, she realized that she wanted to be out in the world. She wanted to live, she chose life and love and self love. In this, she began to make choices that were healthier for her. She does not directly go into what kind of choices she made or what she actually did to lose weight. It’s not a “how to” book, but it’s more about the experience of discovering what was good about her, rather than focusing on what was not. So many people focus on what’s wrong with them when they are trying to lose weight, that they lose sight of what’s amazing about them. What she discovers is that self love is what made weight loss possible. Not self hatred. Not self criticism. When she criticized herself and restricted her food, she wound up bingeing more. When she felt that she had a purpose (beyond being on a diet and losing weight) food held less of a hold on her, it was less important. She was able to focus on her and that is what helped her to find health.
So many people are afraid that if they choose to love and accept themselves as they are, they will gain weight or give up on trying to lose weight. They believe that self love and self acceptance are a recipe for disaster. I think it’s the opposite. When you choose to love and accept yourself, it gives you more space to care and nurture yourself. Nancy really makes that apparent in her book. It’s not about numbers on scale or numbers of calories in a piece of toast. It’s about choosing you. When you choose you you choose health, life and self love.
For some it’s a fun excuse to paint your nails red, to buy flowers for your loved ones, to bake cupcakes, and eat chocolate bonbons. But I suspect that for each person who loves Valentine’s Day, there’s a person who hates it. It can just be a really depressing day. So, I propose for those who are on the side of hating Valentine’s Day, to make it National Self Love Day. Ask yourself, “what’s the next loving thing I can do for myself?” several times on February 14th. Maybe the next loving thing that you can do for yourself will be taking a break from the office and stretching, or putting hand lotion on your hands, or calling your mother/father/best friend/grandma/sponsor, or drinking water. What do you need from yourself to feel love and respect? And if it’s hard for you to feel self love, ask yourself this, “what would I do if I loved myself?”
If there’s no one else in your life right now, and that’s painful for you, rather than allowing February 14th to illuminate that for you– Empower yourself by putting Valentine’s Day in it’s place. Reclaim it as a holiday about couples to holiday about love, and self love is at the root of all love. Embrace everything about you that makes you great! Let yourself be in love with you for a day. Give yourself flowers! Cook yourself an amazing dinner, focus on what makes you great and figure out what kinds of self loving things you can do for you.
What are some self loving things that you plan to do for yourself on February 14th?
It’s really hard to not binge when you want to binge. It’s really hard to go out for a run or to the gym or for a walk when you want to sit home and sit in front of the television and binge. It’s really hard to sit down for 20 minutes and meditate when you’re sitting in front of your laptop staring at Facebook. It’s really hard to go to a yoga class when your couch is so comfy. It’s really hard to go to the DMV or the post office or to clean your house or do dishes or straighten things out with your insurance company or any other mundane task that has to get done when you can put them off for another day.
It’s hard but it’s not really. But it is all at the same time. I mean, really, how hard is it to walk out of your house or apartment and talk a walk or a jog around the block. It’s easy. How hard is it to close your laptop or turn off your TV and go do your laundry? None of it is really hard. But it feels hard. It’s that resistance to doing that can feel so challenging.
Waiting for the motivation to study or to do art or to work on your novel or sit down to meditate or to go to the gym often doesn’t work. Sometimes we have to fight through our own resistance. This is a practice. It’s about understanding that you don’t want to do these things but doing them anyway. The reward is on the other side.
For instance, if you know that you really, really want to binge, it takes a great deal of effort not to. It takes more effort to call a friend or to write in your journal or to do something different. However, think about the future. Take a few moments to think about how you will feel if you do give into the binge. What will you be feeling later? Tomorrow? What if you choose not to? How will you feel then? When you are addicted to bingeing, you associate the binge with pleasure. The idea here is to create new synapses in your brain so that you begin to associate not bingeing with pleasure. So that you begin to find not bingeing more effortless. This is the same with doing things like menial chores that you don’t want to do or things that would be good for you like yoga, meditation or exercise. Try to think about the future. “If I meditate for 20 minutes, I will feel great later. If I go for a 1/2 hour walk, I will feel great afterwards.” As you begin to push through the resistance, you will find that getting things done takes much less effort because you begin to associate productivity with pleasure.
As you practice this, you will be rewarded by having a bed that’s always made, clean dishes, no bills or debt piling up. You will find that life just feels easier. The resistance isn’t necessarily real, it just is. You don’t even have to fight the resistance. You can bring it with you, put it in the car next to you and bring it to the DMV (it will certainly have lots of company there)! This can be so empowering as you begin to take responsibility for your own life and begin to meet your own needs.
If you find that it feels impossible to move through your resistance, you might want to begin to ask your resistance why it’s there with you and what purpose it serves. As you begin to understand why it’s there, you might find that you don’t have use for it anymore. Motivation is hard to muster up, but don’t wait for it. Bring your blase’ attitude with you on whatever you do. You don’t have to say, “I’m going to meditate for 20 minutes” but you can say, “i’m going to meditate for 20 seconds,” and let yourself sit for just a moment. You don’t have to go to the gym for 45 minutes, you can take one quick walk around your block. You don’t even have to do that, you can take a walk out your front door and walk for exactly one minute then turn around. Sometimes, the idea of having to do something can be so overwhelming that it stops you. Don’t make it into an event. Just do whatever you can. You might find that once you get started you can continue longer than you planned. Maybe not. Even just a bit will find your rewards.
Rather than completely resisting a binge, tell yourself that you’re going to put it off for 20 minutes.
You will find that giving in (to a binge, to facebook, to procrastination) is much less pleasurable as you begin to find the joy in taking control of your life. Things just begin to get easier.
Distractions! Here are 101 things that you can do instead of bingeing. And many of them don’t require deep introspection or recovery activities. They’re just straight up good healthy ways to distract yourself when you want to binge. Sometimes you might just be able to distract yourself right out of a binge.
1. Call a friend, your sponsor, a support person, anyone who you can talk to who will either get your mind off of food, or someone to talk to about whatever it is that you might be feeling.
2. Go for a nice long walk in the fresh air. Walking is both regulating and calming. It soothes your nervous system and helps to calm your mind and body.
5. Give yourself a manicure/pedicure– can’t binge with wet nails.
6. Pet your cat or dog or rabbit or bird! Pets have been proven to calm down your mind and body. No pet? volunteer to walk dogs and pet cats at the local ASPCA.
7. Go to the movies if the food there is not a trigger.
8. Lay down and watch a heartwarming or funny movie on Netflix. Do something with your hands like beading or knitting while you’re watching to engage all your senses.
9. Take a shower, give yourself a hot oil treatment, shave your legs, tweeze your brows– self care time.
10. Get organized sort out your bills, create a budget– organize your home, your brain, your life! Often getting organized can help you feel more in control and enable you to thwart a binge, which can often feel very out of control.
11. Draw, paint or color.
12. Knit or do needlepoint
13. Take a nap
14. Get out of your house and into your car, go to the beach, the lake, the park… somewhere pretty and relaxing.
15. Go through your closet and donate all clothes that are too big, too small, out of date or unworn. Keep the clothes that you feel good about yourself in.
16. Go window shopping.
17. Lay down somewhere relaxing and read a good book.
18. Put your headphones on, listen to a good podcast and get some cleaning in, you will feel so good afterwards!
19. Put on music and dance it out in your room!
20. Go out dancing.
21. Call your friends over and have a dance party.
22. Go to the gym.
23. Stretch, go to a yoga class, do a yoga DVD or an exercise or yoga class on youtube or Gaia.
24. Take a relaxing bath with nice bath salts or essential oils.
25. Write in your journal.
26. Move! Do jumping jacks, run in place, anything to move a little energy and release some tension and satisfy your sensory needs for movement. Often binge eating happens because you are looking for sensory input. Moving your body can satisfy this.
27. Scream into a pillow. The action of doing this will release endorphins and calm down anxiety in the same way that binge eating will.
49. Cut out old pictures or magazines to create an inspirational collage!
50. Go bowling/play ski ball/ go play miniature golf, play pool, play golf or miniature golf, play basketball, hit tennis balls, go to a batting cage.
51. ScrapbookIt’s very calming and organizing of your brain and environment.
52. Write an angry letter to whomever you are holding anger at. You don’t have to send it, just let it out. Afterwards, put it somewhere safe. You might let go of some emotions that you’d been stuffing and you might find that you no longer have the urge to binge.
53. Go through old pictures of people, family, friends who make you feel good.
54. Cuddle with your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, daughter, son, cat, dog, teddy bear, etc.
56. Water your plants and then sit and talk to them. This is an amazing and healing practice. Talking through your pain is good for you and the carbon dioxide you emit from talking is good for the plants. If you don’t have any, go out and buy some plants!
57. Catch up on your shows– as long as television is not a binge trigger.
*Whirling Dervish (wurl-ing dur-vish) n. 1. A mystical dancer who stands between the material and cosmic worlds. His dance is part of a sacred ceremony in which the dervish rotates in a precise rhythm. He represents the earth revolving on its axis while orbiting the sun. The purpose of the ritual whirling is for the dervish to empty himself of all distracting thoughts, placing him in trance; released from his body he conquers dizziness.
69. Light scented candles and incense and relax.
70. Do something touristy in your own town. Nothing touristy there? Just go explore or look around at random parts you don’t spend much time at.
71. Call a friend or relative who has been unhappy lately and needing some support. Sometimes giving support can be incredibly heartening and also supports the supporter.
72. Use crayons to color hard! This can release tension.
74. Search through your couch and house for change! Put everything you can in a jar and put it aside to start a fund for yourself as a motivator in your recovery. Every time you reach a milestone (ie: no bingeing or restricting for one week) you can buy yourself something fun, like a new pair of shoes, or some jewelry or new CD, or whatever you like within reason.
75. Write a long, heart wrenching letter and stick it in a bottle and send it off.
76. Roll on your back. This is a spinal massage that helps you to feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
77. Drink a glass of water. Sometimes hunger and thirst can be confused and a lot of people have trouble knowing the difference. A good thing to do when you are confused is to first drink a glass of water and then to wait 10 minutes or so and see if you are still hungry. Hunger is more of a belly growling, and distressed mood sort of feeling and thirst is more in the mouth– producing more saliva, feeling a little “dry,” and maybe even a little weak. Thirst doesn’t really feel very strong until you are dehydrated, so it’s okay to go ahead and have some water first. Sometimes people have sweetness cravings when they are actually thirsty!
80. Write out your intentions or personal goals for yourself for the week. Write out both long term and short term goals- things that you are striving for and ways to help you get there.
81. Throw a temper tantrum! Go into your bedroom, lay on your stomach in your bed and scream into your pillow while you kick your legs and punch your hands into the bed. Ever see kids do this? They expend all that energy and it moves right through them. As adults, we can’t really do this and lots of anger and pain winds up feeling stuck in the body. We often try to stuff that down with food and for some- purging or cutting. Let that anger out rather than taking it out on yourself.
82. Plan a party or get together or weekend trip with your friends.
83. Throw rocks into the ocean, into a lake, at a tree. Move energy through you, don’t stuff it down with food!
84. Put your pillow in a chair and imagine it is someone that you are angry at or have some unfinished business with and yell at it! Beat it up! It’s just a pillow. But the symbolic gesture will help you to feel some relief. This is commonly known in Gestalt Therapy as the Empty Chair technique.
85. Make jewelry out ofhousehold items or beads or coins. Let it be a representation and a reminder of your recovery.
86. Smell aromatherapy oils. Aromatherapy can be a fun way to complement recovery and to treat every day stresses. You can put them in a bath, you can put them in a diffuser or you can just smell them in a bottle. Lavender, Clary Sage, Vetiver, Citrus help with stress and Lavender, Marjoram, Orange and German and Roman chamomile can help you relax.
96. Do a home makeover! Rearrange your furniture, get rid of things that you no longer want– sell them on eBay! Put up some curtains, just make things pretty for yourself. If you don’t have the money, go to Goodwill and find some vases or mason jars and throw some fresh picked flowers and just spruce up your environment. You will feel so much better.
100. Fight Procrastination! Sit down and write that novel, short story, or poetry that you’ve been talking about. Do homework, write that paper you’ve been putting off, work on your dissertation… whatever it is that you’ve been putting off. Use the time that you would normally be bingeing to do it!
101. Take a deep breath into your belly and remind yourself that you are perfect, whole and complete exactly the way you are.