One of the many AA mottos is “One Day at a Time” That just has to be true. People who binge eat are often very polarized in their thinking. It has to be all or nothing. So, when people decide to recover from binge eating, they set the bar very high for themselves. “I’m never ever going to binge eat again. I’m only going to eat healthy every day for the rest of my life.” Wow. That’s really way too much to think about. And not only that, but it’s a giant set up for failure. When you decide that for the rest of your life you’re never going to binge, you establish a really difficult task for yourself. And it’s a set up for a binge. “Well, if I’m NEVER going to binge again, I might as well have a really good one tonight. Then tomorrow I’ll be perfect.” That almost never works. You wake up ill the next morning and are unable to eat or feeling too guilty to eat for several hours. When you finally do allow yourself to eat, you are so hungry that… well, you know. The cycle starts again. There are variations on this. And certainly, there are people who make a decision to never binge again or never binge and purge again and never do. But, for the most part, this is incredibly overwhelming for the psyche. And it backfires. However, if you can break the task down into small, manageable pieces, recovery becomes more tangible. So, make a decision that you are going to choose one day. Just one whole day, where you don’t act out in any eating disorder behaviors. No bingeing, no restricting, not purging, no overexercising. You are going to take one day to act as if you are recovered. Just to see what it’s like. You must do this with the caveat of letting yourself know that this is only a one day experiment. That is what will make it more palpable.
So, here’s how you do it.
1.)Pick out a day that you are going to act as if you are without eating disordered behaviors.
2.)Remember, it’s only one day, so you don’t have to prepare yourself the day before by bingeing or starving.
3.)Wake up that morning and EAT BREAKFAST! What I find incredibly common in binge eaters and bulimics is the propensity to skip breakfast. The idea for most is to go as long as they can without eating. The belief is that if they skip breakfast, it will set up a “bad” precedent for the rest of the day. But remember, this is the day that you pretend that you have no eating issues, so go ahead and eat breakfast.
So, when I say breakfast, I don’t mean a piece of fruit. I mean a good hearty breakfast. Try to have a high protein breakfast with some fiber and complex carbohydrates. Such as two eggs and a cup of oatmeal with a piece of fruit, or some turkey sausage with whole grain bread and fruit, or if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, a tofu scrambled with vegetables and a side of fruit.
4.)When you make your breakfast, make it with loving kindness. Try to get up a bit earlier than usual. Instead of rolling out of bed and chugging coffee while you’re running out the door, set your alarm for 1/2 hour earlier. Before you shower, before you do anything, give yourself some time to make yourself a nourishing breakfast and really take time and space to eat quietly. Sit down at a table without turning on the television or looking at the internet or reading the paper. Eat slowly. Notice your food. Notice the tastes, the textures and the feeling of eating. Let your body take in the nutrients it needs.
5.)Notice as you shower and get ready for work what it felt like to give yourself some time and space and nurturing in the morning.
6.)As you begin your day, notice what your body feels like. Check in with your body for cues of hunger and satiety. If you did indeed feed yourself a good hearty breakfast, but you feel hungry in an hour, this is probably not physical hunger, but emotional hunger. Are you stressed about something? Are you tired? What else might be going on? Continue to assess your hunger throughout the day using the hunger and satiety scale.
7.)When it comes time for lunch, again, don’t skip it. Don’t eat lunch in front of your computer. Eat something healthy such as a salad with protein and a broth based soup, or a sandwich on whole grain bread with lots of vegetables and some kind of non processed meat and a piece of fruit. As you did with breakfast, try to give yourself space and time to actually taste your meal. Don’t inhale it. Notice it bite by bite. Allow it to feed your body and nurture your cells.
8.)Check in with yourself throughout the day. Am I hungry? Am I tired? Am I stressed? What do I need? How can I give myself what I need? Do I want to eat? Do I want to eat because I’m hungry or do I want to eat because I’m feeling something else?
9.)If you are finding that you are feeling hungry in the afternoon, let yourself eat something with protein and fiber, such as nuts and fruit together. If you want to eat something with sugar like a cookie, limit yourself to one serving and eat it with some protein such as raw nuts or seeds or a piece of string cheese or even a hardboiled egg or slice of meat.
10.)When you get home that evening, if it is a time that you usually binge, remind yourself that this is only one day of not bingeing, it’s just a one day challenge, and see if you can use your recovery tools to do something different.
11.)Again, make yourself a good dinner and eat it peacefully.
12.)After dinner, let yourself unwind. No work, no running around, no gym, no errands. Just a relaxing evening. You might want to take a bath or get into bed with a good book, or talk to a friend that you’ve been meaning to catch up with.
This is just one full day of self care and trying to see what it might be like to be on the other side of this. It’s just an experiment. As people with eating disorders, the days are filled with experiments. Experimenting on how little you can eat, what you can omit from your diet, how much you can eat, this diet, that diet…. Try seeing what it might be like to do this.