I really love bugs. I don’t know what it is about them. I just find them fascinating. When I was a little girl, I used to collect them.
I know. Gross. But I was a big nerd — so there you go.
Anyway, one dusk in late spring, my Mom and I went to a park down the street from our building so that I could watch the fireflies. I caught several, brought them home in a mason jar with leaves and water and holes nailed into the lid. When I got home, I watched the fireflies until I fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning, they were all dead and I cried for days.
The lifespan of a firefly is approximately 60 days and I don’t think that I perchance had collected all geriatric fireflies. I mean I could have, maybe that’s why they were so catchable, but it’s unlikely. The fireflies died because their environment wasn’t hospitable to their livelihood.
You get where I’m going with this, right? How can you make your environment more hospitable to recovery and take away the elements that make it hostile for you. The most important thing is to either remove your binge triggers or to combat them before they overwhelm you.
1. Deal with food triggers
This is always controversial. My feeling is that no food is bad and you should be able to eat whatever you want. However, if there are certain foods that you just believe that you can’t not binge on, it’s okay to get them out of your house. Your house should be a safe place for you, not a scary place where you are in emotional turmoil as to whether or not to take a bite of something. I always say, if you were a cocaine addict in recovery, would you keep piles of cocaine on your kitchen counter? It probably wouldn’t be a great idea. I couldn’t keep boxed cereal in my house for many, many years. Once my disordered eating was very well behind me and it was safe to do so, I was able to keep it in the house again. If you just cannot do this due to having family members or roommates who need these things in the house, ask them to either keep it in a high cupboard, or in a locked area, or hidden.
2. Change what kind of social media you are looking at
When I was 22, my very serious boyfriend had a very serious thing for Kate Moss. He had pages and pages of black and white Calvin Klein Kate Moss ads plastered all over his bedroom walls. Kate Moss with her cheek bones and her hip bones and her ribs sticking out all over the place. It made me feel totally unworthy and unhappy with my own soft (not pointy or bony) body. It made me go days and weeks living on nothing but cigarettes and chardonnay and diet coke instead of food. But what if he’d instead had pictures of Sophie Dahl or Emme or even Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Janet Reno? Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so crappy about myself. I mean, I probably would have in certain ways, but it definitely didn’t help my self-esteem.
Things are crazy now with Instagram. It’s really important to challenge your perception of what you think is beautiful. We are so bombarded with images of what the perfect woman is supposed to look like, that we forget that there are many ways to be and feel beautiful. In order to change that environment, fill your IG feed with models who challenge the thin ideal. People like Tess Holliday or Joni Edelman or Ashley Graham. Check out the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards or follow the actual @effyourbeautystandards on Instagram.
I believe that challenging your own perceptions of what is beautiful can truly help you to look at yourself differently. My favorite Instagram accounts that are doing this are:
Laura Delrato – I also love her because she’s from the Bronx like me.
Diet Culture Sucks – This youngin has recovered from her ED and posts amazing photos of herself and her friends just being.
The Militant Baker– Jes Baker, author of Land Whale and Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living
3. Deal with Environmental Triggers
Environmental triggers are having things in your environment that feel unchangeable that cause you to binge. For instance, a kitchen at work that is always filled with free snack foods, or everyday on your way home from work you pass a certain bakery or coffee shop or supermarket or the fast food place that you stop at on your way home from work every day or eating in your car… Doing things that challenge these environmental triggers are a big way to feel more relaxed and less beholden to things and urges that feel beyond your control. Take a new route home from work, move your cubicle to the opposite side of the office… figure out ways to deal with the triggers that keep you stuck in your automatic thinking patterns. When I quit smoking, I had to quit drinking coffee for awhile because cigarettes and coffee always went together. I ungave up giving up coffee because really I love coffee more than I love most things in the world.
4. Notice your mental environment
Your mental environment has to do with your cognitive behaviors. That is, the way your thoughts take over your mind. It’s really easy to believe that you are a slave to your brain. Especially if you have a brain that overthinks. I understand this problem intimately as I have a loud chatty brain that loves to keep me awake at night. This is where learning how to stop your brain from moving comes in handy. People are often curious about meditation, and the truth of it is that it is the only tried and true method of turning your mind off. If you can prioritize 5-10 minutes a day of meditation, you will learn how to turn your brain off so that you can actually do that when your brain is causing you angst and woe. It’s almost like resetting the radio. When a song comes on that you hate, you can either turn it off or turn to a different station with music that makes you happy or calms and soothes you. You don’t have to sit and listen to a song that makes you crazy. You can do the same thing with your brain, you can choose the thoughts that you think.
5. Get away from Toxic People
I hate to refer to human beings as toxic, nobody is actually toxic, but their behaviors or attitudes might not be compatible with your own or their words might hurt you. Sometimes we spend a lot of time either thinking about these people or trying to do something to get them to change their behavior or we try to change our own behavior to make them change theirs. If you have a relationship that is causing you pain, be it a friend, workmate, colleague or romantic partner– if they are causing you to treat yourself poorly, it’s okay to take a break from them. Nobody should be spending time with someone who brings out the worst in them.
Your environment and the world around you are intimately tied up in your behaviors. Your behaviors didn’t start in a vacuum, so by changing certain environmental issues, you can have an easier time changing the actual behaviors that you’re grappling with.