Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Eating Disorder Recovery Handbook (6)


“I got tired of waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel, so I lit that bitch up myself.” -- Anonymous

A lot of information regarding eating disorders exists online and in general, but not all of it is accurate. Be careful to look into research claims and any information that lacks explicit scientific backing. Bloggers might have good intentions, but not all of them are qualified to give advice about eating disorders and especially about recovery. Use your discretion. Mostly, when it comes to advice, use what works for you and discard the rest. When in doubt, check with a professional, your doctor or your therapist, to make sure anything you try is safe.

It can be difficult to say goodbye to an illness or addiction when, as in the case of eating disorders, it serves as a coping strategy. If, however, you are getting the security you need in a healthy way, it becomes easier. The safer you feel, the easier it will be to let go of the disorder.

Some ways to achieve this include:

Write a letter to your illness. Acknowledge how it served you, and then say goodbye to it. Observe how saying goodbye makes you feel.

Be as present and aware as you can in life. There’s a strong correlation between your thoughts and your speech and how you feel. The more you can switch your focus away from food, calories and exercise, the more you can allow yourself to be in the moment, and this is a way to temporarily forget your disorder. Aim to avoid triggering statements such as "I feel fat" and instead try to uncover what this symptom means. Often, this translates into feeling uncomfortable. Dig for the cause of the symptom rather than focusing on the symptom itself, and then seek out solutions in healthy ways.

Listen to your body. Do what’s sensible, and allow your body its voice. Watch how you talk to yourself and to others. Listen carefully to others who love you and choose your words carefully. When you judge others harshly, also take a look at what is going on for you. Sometimes when we feel uncomfortable with ourselves, we tend to project our own issues onto others.

Be patient with your own mind. Over time, the thoughts that seem so oppressive will start to abate and move to the background. Before long, you will begin to notice that these thoughts will completely disappear for short periods. Soon, the periods of time without the distorted thoughts will stretch into longer and longer segments until you can be more focused on living and less obsessed with what you are eating, how much you are exercising or how your body looks.

Challenge your core beliefs and fears. Keep exploring what rules you create for yourself and why. You set the rules, and you can change them. Some people who have overcome eating disorders explain that they think of their illness like a game in which they create rules by which they force themselves to abide, and, since this is the case for them, they have the power to change or relax the rules. This is your life. You are strong enough to create your own destiny.

I read of one young lady with an eating disorder whose observant mother noted that she slowly began to bend her own rules during her recovery. At first, she wouldn’t allow herself to eat outside of her planned meals, but she slowly began to allow herself a little bit extra, a taste of her favorite dish or an extra-thin slice of cake. These “extras” didn’t count for her. A few extra bites weren’t enough to break her rules, only bend them until she could get to the point where she wasn’t unnecessarily constricted by these rules, and could break them, change them or even get rid of them. Start with small steps if a giant leap is too scary at first.

Be grateful of where you are and what you have learned thus far. Keep a gratitude jar and fill it up monthly, weekly or even daily with events or anything for which you are grateful, as little or a big as it may be. Write it on a slip of paper and place it in your gratitude jar. Whenever you feel you need some encouragement, take out the slips of paper and read them.

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