Food is consistent, right? You have a bad day, you reach for a cookie, you just got dumped, you reach for ice cream, you’re grumpy and have a headache, you soothe yourself with some chips and salsa, you’re lonely, you order a pizza. Food can be soothing and comforting and help you find peace quickly. Unfortunately though, the solution can then become the problem. It’s really important to stop when you find yourself reaching for food and ask yourself what your motivation is. Are you trying to make yourself feel better? What are some other things that would be soothing besides food? Food often seems like one of the best ways to take care of yourself because it’s right there, it’s consistent, and it’s easy. But if you had a list of soothing things that you could do instead of eat, might you be able to soothe yourself in a different way?
Take a warm bath, or shower
Light incense or scented candles and listening to music,
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?
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.
There are times when you will be about to binge or trying to convince yourself that you won’t binge if you just let yourself have this one thing that has historically been a trigger food. Stop. Before you do anything, ask yourself, “am I hungry?” If you are, let yourself eat a protein dense food. If you’re not, if you’re just wanting to eat, tell yourself that you are absolutely allowed to go and binge, but you are going to wait 20 minutes before you do anything. Set an ordinary kitchen timer for 20 minutes and in those 20 minutes before you get your binge food, let yourself engage in some kind of relaxing activity. If you’re at work, get outside of the office and take a walk. If you’re at home, take a hot bath or do some light stretching or yoga, or call a close friend and chat for a while. For other ideas on what to do while you are delaying, check out 101 things to do instead of binge eating. At the end of 20 minutes, check in and see if you’re still wanting to binge. You might at that point have enough distance from it to make a choice that’s less compulsive and more calm. When you postpone the binge, you take the compulsive behavior out and put mindfulness in. It’s easier to make an informed decision when you are conscious. You might still binge, but each time you give yourself some time to postpone, you are strengthening the part of you that is learning to care for yourself without abusing food.
An old school mechanical kitchen timer is a great tool because it’s something that you can just keep there in your kitchen, it’s easy to just grab and turn without sitting and messing with your timer on your phone. Having something to grab and touch and use your hands with is a great way to interrupt a binge compulsion and pull you out of it without pulling you into your phone.
You’ve probably heard before that there are many, many benefits to meditation. If you are currently in therapy, chances are your therapist encourages you to consider a meditation practice or even has you sit for short time during your sessions. She or he might even do some guided visualizations (a type of mediation) with you. You might know that meditation is particularly effective to help people heal from binge eating and bulimia. Getting started is pretty simple.
How to Get Started with Meditation:
There are several different ways to meditate and there is no wrong way to meditate. People tend to get very stressed out over doing it right. Many people say that they can’t empty their minds. That’s not the point. As human beings we really can’t empty our minds. People who have very serious meditation practices can get very close. However, it is a practice and a discipline and it takes time.
Try not to be black and white about it. Many people decide that they are going to wake up every morning at 5am and begin a meditation practice by sitting for an hour every morning. Some people can do that, but if you’re not able to, no big deal. You can do it at any time of day and you can do it for 4-5 minutes. Just that amount of time twice a day will have a big impact on you. As you continue, you will find that you can increase the amount of time that you sit. If you forget, you can meditate on the bus or the train on your way to work. You can walk into a bathroom stall at work and meditate in the bathroom. You can close the door to your office and meditate at your desk. You can always find 5 spare minutes to do this. Make it simple so that you’re set up for success.
Here are several different ideas for integrating meditation into your life. There is no wrong or right way. Just find something that brings you peace and relief.
When you are ready to sit, try to find a place where you can sit in peace for a few moments without someone asking for your attention. Don’t worry about external noise or distractions. Those will always be there, even if you’re meditating on the side of a mountain in Kathmandu. Just allow yourself to close your eyes. Some people like to concentrate on their breath. That’s one great way to meditate. Notice the feeling of your breath and follow the steady rhythm of it. If you see that your mind begins to think about your day, that’s okay, gently return to your breath. You might have to do this 100 times. It’s all okay. You might even notice that you are feeling anxious about something. You can even name that feeling in your mind. “Anxious!” you mind say to yourself, and then return to your breath.
Another way to meditate is to put your hand on your heart and just be with the rhythm of your heartbeat. Again, don’t worry about emptying your mind. When you notice that your mind says something or feels something, acknowledge it with love, then return to your heartbeat.
Meditate on a word or phrase that is relaxing to you. Such as the word “peace,” and picture something calming to you such as the ocean or a meadow or a waterfall. And keep slowly repeating the word peace to yourself as you see picture the scene or imagine yourself in that scene.
You can also scan your body and let each body part relax. Start with your feet and progressively set the intention to relax each part of your body from your feet to your scalp and then just allow yourself to breath.
Meditate on compassion. As you breath, visualize yourself drenched in love and light and healing. Then, visualize someone you love drenched in love and light and healing energy. Then, visualize someone who needs help drenched in love, light and healing energy. Then, visualize someone you might be angry with or resentful of drenched in love, light, and healing energy. Then, visualize a nation in trouble drenched in love, light and healing energy. Then visualize the whole planet drenched in love, light, and healing energy.
Throughout the day, check in with yourself to see if you can just bring awareness into your day. Incorporate mindfulness into your day to day activities, even washing the dishes. Feeling the soap on your hands and noticing what it feels like to accomplish the task of washing a dish counts as mindfulness. Check in and notice what emotions you are feeling. Check in while you are driving/riding to work. Check in while you are at your desk. Check in as you’re talking to different people to understand how their presence impacts you.
Visualize yourself being free from the urge to binge. See yourself in a situation where there is food all around you. You know that food is what you use to nurture your body, not to hurt yourself. In using food to love and care for yourself, you understand that it is not dangerous so being around it isn’t stressful and it isn’t delightful, it just is a fact of life.
There are several reasons why meditation can be such a great tool to help with binge eating disorder. First off, according to a study out of Maharishi University in Iowa, meditation has a profound effect on stress levels. After studying people who participated in a regular meditation practice for four months, they found that the participants produced less cortisol (a stress hormone). Because they were so much less entrenched in their stress, they were better able to cope with the daily stressors in their lives.
Because so many binge eaters use food to relax, shut down, and decrease stress and anxiety, they find that when they use meditation to relax and reduce stress and anxiety, they no longer need to use food for that purpose.
Meditation also creates an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, reactions, behaviors, your compulsions and the actions they precipitate. As you begin to cultivate a practice of being more attuned to the way that your brain is working, you will find that you have more control over your compulsions and behaviors. For instance, in Vipassana meditation (also called mindfulness or insight meditation), you allow yourself to be with what is without judging it or trying to change it. If you are practicing Vipassana meditation one morning and notice that you are feeling angry, it’s okay to allow that anger to be there. What often happens is that people feel different feelings throughout the day that they put judgements on, like “I’m angry, that’s bad. I’m sad, that’s bad. I’m anxious, that’s bad.” When you notice your feeling with love and acceptance, remembering that as a human you are dynamic and have millions of emotions coursing through your mind and body at any given time, you won’t be as quick to try and change them, fix them, or make them end. Often, using food is a way to make the feeling go away or change the feeling or simply not feel it. This kind of meditation helps you to increase your capacity to sit with uncomfortable feelings without using food to push them away.
Third, as you cultivate an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you will notice before you begin to binge. So often, people don’t even realize that they are bingeing until after they are done. As you become more aware of your intention, you will find that you catch yourself before you act. You will be observing yourself with interest rather than disassociating. Because of this, you will be more apt to notice as you begin to go toward the food. You can then ask yourself, “am I going toward food because I am hungry or am I needing something else?” If you’re needing something else, you can then ask yourself “what am I feeling?” As you begin to notice what you are feeling, you can then understand more what you need. You can choose to nurture with something other than food. If you are actually hungry, you can then check in with your body and notice what it needs and nurture your body with food. As you do this more and more you develop a healthy relationship with your mind and body and are best able to meet the needs of your mind and body.
So much of eating disorders is fueled by focusing on the negative. By negative, I mean what we don’t have. There is always this sense of “I would be better if i were thinner, if I had more money, if I had a boyfriend, if I had a baby, if I had new car, if I had a nose job, if I had a big house, if I were popular, if I had better clothes…” etc. etc.
When Zen Buddhist Monks work toward detachment, they practice detaching from their wants. When we attach to our wants so vehemently, we leave little space for enjoying what we have. This causes a great deal of suffering. “I am sad because I don’t have __________________ (fill in the blank).”
The problem here is that when you obsess on what you don’t have, you will never be happy. There will always be something that you don’t have. This doesn’t mean not to have goals and aspirations. This doesn’t mean to settle. This means that you can love yourself and enjoy your life as you’re working toward your goals. You can’t wait to enjoy your life.
A great practice is spending a few minutes each morning having some gratitude for what you do have. Some people make a morning practice of writing a gratitude list. This helps to bring the focus away from what you don’t have toward what you do have.
For instance, rather than, I hate my body, I should be thinner. “I am grateful for a body that works.”
Rather than, I wish I could afford to buy a house. “I am grateful to have a home to live on and I can make it into the home that I choose it to be.
It’s not what people do that upset us, it’s our reaction to it. It’s not our thoughts or our feelings that upset us, it’s our reaction to it.
One of the things that we rarely remember in recovery is that we actually have a choice. Sometimes, when we have the urge to binge, it feels like we have no choice whatsoever. If we have the urge, we absolutely must do it. But the truth is, you always have a choice. If you are feeling the urge to binge, you can decide not to. Yes, it will be challenging to sit with that uncomfortable anxiety of wanting to and not being able to binge. It can feel like an unscratchable itch, and the only way to relieve it is to binge. However, you can allow yourself some discomfort and some anxiety. Anxiety and discomfort and desire and even feeling the need to binge are just feelings. Feelings can’t kill you. You can sit with these. Some people believe that they can’t. But you can.
Many people react to such feelings as loneliness, sadness, anger, or anxiety with disdain. They feel the need to judge it as bad and make it go away. The truth is that there are no “bad” feelings. You can’t put a moral judgment on a feeling. They just are. God gives us millions of emotions, yet so many of us believe that it’s only okay to feel one or two, all the others are unacceptable. You are completely responsible for your own reaction. It’s okay to be okay with what you’re feeling even if it’s unpleasant. So often people try to push the uncomfortable feeling away which in turn causes more discomfort.
It’s not just our feelings that we react to, but it’s also other people’s actions. For instance, if someone at your office blows you off or is rude to you, you have a choice. You can attach meaning to that which upsets you. You can believe that they don’t like you or that you did something wrong, or that there is something inherently wrong with you, or you can give yourself another rational explanation… they didn’t feel good, they just had a fight with their husband, or maybe they were just in a bad mood. In the end, how other people treat you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. People choose their own actions. People choose their own reactions.
Next time something happens, notice how you react. Is this reaction helpful or harmful? Can you choose a reaction that would feel good in your body? Can you slow down and think about how you want to be with this instance in this instant? This is all about you, no one else.
In working with addiction, one of the most basic things that one can do to help oneself is to change up their routine a bit. For instance, someone who knows that they have a glass of wine each day when they come home from work, will begin to fantasize about that glass of wine a few hours before they leave work. However, if they can put a little break in that routine, they might be able to push through the urge. One way to do that would be to schedule a different activity for after work, like a tennis game or a walk with a friend or something else that doesn’t have to involve drinking or happy hour. Another way is to set a timer when they get home. They will not let themselves pour that drink for at least 30 minutes until after they get home. After 30 minutes, the urge might not be as strong because the ritual of it is broken.
You might have a certain ritual around a particular food or a binge. Although binges almost seem to happen spontaneously, the thing to remember is that a binge actually begins forming several hours before it happens. There is the urge, the activating event, or the knowledge that you are going to be in a situation that causes you to binge, ie: alone in the house, visiting parents, coming home from work, out drinking with friends for happy hour… whatever it is, you know from past experience, this can trigger a binge.
Make a plan to break up your routine or to interrupt your ritual. If you know that when you visit your folks you binge after they go to sleep at night, make a plan to go to sleep early, bring a captivating book that you can read in bed, something that will keep your attention. Have a friend on hand that you can call in the evening. Leave the house! Anything that will put a wedge in that routine. If you know that you binge when you get home from work, don’t go straight home from work, or take a new route home from work where you don’t pass the store that you buy binge food from. Set a timer when you get home. Tell yourself that you can binge after 30 minutes if you still want to. You might find that after the original ritual of coming home and eating is broken, that you’re able to resist a binge and enjoy a healthy dinner instead.