I have suffered from Anorexia / Bulimia / for 11 years. Are there any recovered or knowledgeable people who can offer me some tips, ideas and ways to overcome ED, "other than" therapy and clinics?
I am seeking ANY alternative recovery ideas that fall under the category of self help. Such as coping skills, helpful tools, projects, books, what has helped other people recover other than therapy and clinics. For example, what kind of projects did they make you do in a clinic, what kind of homework do i need to do? I need as much ideas as possible.
I cannot access eating disorder help in my community because there is none, so i have to do it on my own.
I appreciate any advice.
For more in depth questions:
How did you learn to be more confident?
How did you fight the habit and cravings?
How do you deal with relapse?
How to keep the will to fight and recover?
I have 16 years recovery from my eating disorder which had gone much longer than yours. One of the things I did was attend meetings of OA which exist in most good size towns so you should be able to find one nearby. I don't agree with everything in their philsophy but the support of others who have had the same experience and maybe are further along in their recovery is invaluable. In a way it is like what you are doing now: asking for ideas and what worked from people who have already walked the path. You can get a sponsor who will work with you one on one. I do believe in self-help but I also believe that sometimes it's hard to be objective and outside input is very helpful.
I did get a lot out of a couple books but unfortunately I no longer remember their titles. But if you go to your local bookstore and look in the self help area or even the library I'm sure you'll find some that look good to you.
Ok, what worked for me: Perhaps the most important thing I did was to get, really GET that it wasn't about weight loss. I'd lost and gained the same 20 pounds over and over. By the time I got in recovery my eating disorder had become my whole life and each day was taken over by the insanity of weight, swearing to do better, starting out eating healthy, then giving in to the impulse, binging, purging and feeling like utter crap physically and emotionally. I wanted that craziness to STOP. That became more important to me than the extra weight. Also I recognized that dieting triggered the whole cycle and so I decided to worry about the weight down the road and just focus on stopping the ED behaviors.
Through OA I learned that sugar is a physical addiction for some of us and we just CANNOT have "one piece" any more than an alcoholic can have one drink. I was told that to stop the craving I had to first stop the physiological addiction by not eating ANY sugar at all for 30 days which included any food whose label had sugar as the 5th ingredient or higher. I was shocked to see how many foods had sugar! Some people also cut out white flour during this time but I just focused on sugar. Everyone defines abstinence a little different, for me I defined it as "three meals a day, nothing in between and no sugar at all." After the physical addiction passes you can deal with the emotional cravings. You teach yourself to note when you want to eat for reasons that have nothing to do with hunger. You learn to recognize in your body what hunger feels like and what satiety feels like (being full). I taught myself to recognize how much I put myself down and how distorted my body image was (I had a good friend who I envied because I thought had a great figure. One day I said that and she was astonished, saying "I always wished I had YOUR figure!" We asked and found out we weighed the exact same thing! That told me something!
I did backslide a few times before I got my recovery, and I told myself "It happens, don't beat up on yourself, just get back on track asap." Again, having a support network of other recovering people helps because you can call someone when you have the urge to binge (or restrict or purge). It also helped my belief in the possible when I saw people who had been in recovery for years. Other things I did was stop waiting to start my life till I was the perfect weight. I stopped refusing invitations to parties or clubs. I bought clothes that looked good on me instead of baggy "hiding" clothes; taking pride in my appearance.
Part of what is done in therapy is what is called cognitive-behavioral. Cognitive therapy helps us see how we have errors in thinking, or automatic thoughts that happen without our even knowing it. It teaches to "catch ourselves" at those thoughts and then to change them. New thoughts lead to new behavior. Changing your self image not only changes how you feel about yourself but how others see you. Instead of noticing all the perfect body think women, notice a somewhat overweight "voluptuous" woman who carries herself with pride and realize how attractive she appears. There is a saying "fake it till you make it" or "act as if". Act as if you feel good about yourself, and soon it starts to be more true.
Finally, you have to change your relationship with food. Learning not to eat for emotional reasons is part of it, but ironically you also have to learn to enjoy your food. Too many people go on restrictive diets, then feel deprived after awhile and binge out. Prepare tasty and well balanced meals, take time both preparing and eating. Don't eat on the run. Sit down to a nicely set table even if it is just you. Enjoy and savor your meal.
Hope some of this helps. I had an eating disorder for 30 years before finding recovery. You can do it too!
Thank you, it gives me hope to know that you are recovered, after 30 years.
This is interesting, because i was interested in trying to use the 12 step programs for my eating disorder before i posted this. But i was doubtful it would work, so thank you greatly for sharing this.
I absolutely loved the concept of step groups, in fact i attend AA and NA to help me through already, there is no OA here, but i was becoming doubtful it would work to view the eating disorder as an addiction. I had given up on it. But all the steps groups are the same, so i could just use the steps for my eating disorder. I just went through the steps for all my other addictions so i know how it works.
So step one is realizing we have a problem, and wanting to change. Coming to a realization it's not about weight loss falls under this step. Thank you. When i was comparing step one to eating disorder before, it was so overwhelmingly confusing, but what you said clarifies things perfectly about what i need to do. I need to let go of the desire to lose weight completely. I realize i am still hanging onto the fact that i want to lose weight, but for some odd reason, i didn't actually comprehend i was doing this. I thought it was okay, and that if i told myself i could still be thin i could recover.
I was actually configuring my recovery plan to consist of lots of extreme physical activity and physical goals, probably because i was scared and not ready to let go yet.
So, should my abstinent action plan, include cutting out physical activity too? It feels unbearable and scary to sit back and do nothing. But to tell you the truth, i don't know if i am capable of working out healthily without bad goals haunting me. Should i give it a break for awhile, or try and jump in right away to learning a healthy balance of working out? On the flip side, working out does make me sane and happy, and has lots of other mental health benefits for me, so i don't think i should be abstinent from it. I just don't know how to conquer this part. I need physical activity, but it drives my eating disorder at times.
I think i have become more healthier obsessed with physical goals, other than body goals, so maybe if i just focus on that. I remember back in the day i was against muscle, and strength, but working out has become my saviour, to the point i know i need muscle, and to fuel my body, so i could just focus on increasing my endurance and strength, and trying not to let weight loss goals get in the way. I don't know how to balance the physical activity part though. Any ideas anyone?
Thank you for your whole reply of what has helped you, I am pretty sure these ideas will help me too as soon as i get to that point. I am going to keep it somewhere i can look back on. You gave me some good homework to work on.
I am going to start on step one first. I need to let my old ideas go. This is harder than it sounds. I know they make step one sound so easy, but theres so much inside of it, i can't want to make a change or realize it's a problem unless i let go of things. Sometimes it takes me awhile to develop self will and motivation. I wish there were easier ways than hitting rock bottom.
I'm so glad you are already comfortable with Twelve Step Programs because that is an obstacle for some people. There is actually an OA Twelve Step Book like the AA bluebook which you could get.(I believe it's just called Overeater's Anonymous, it's a brown cover). In addition, there are OA meetings online now! I know it is not the same as realtime meetings but since you don't have access to those in your area it's a good second choice and you will probably be able to get connected to a sponsor. Though the principals and steps are the same, you are right that the issues are different and it can be confusing to know how to apply them so maybe the online meetings are a better option.
You sound like you already have a fair amount of insight. You answered the question I was going to ask about the physical exercise issue. On the one hand I don't think you would want to discard healthy amounts of exercise because of all its many benefits, but only you know how much of a trigger it is for you. What I find with eating disorders is that in early recovery once you trigger one type of behavior that was part of your ED pattern, it tends to awaken them all. But only you know if you can, at this point, engage in healthy exercise without triggering the rest. That's another reason it would be great if you could get a sponsor because they can help you be objective about things like that. I'm not an exerciser; never was in my disease, and, other than walking a lot, am not now. So I can't really respond to that question, but maybe someone else will. There tends to be lots of newcomers on this board.
As for letting go of the idea that you can be thin, that one is complicated too. But bottom line is that many people with recovery from EDs do, in time, find their bodies get to a healthy weight (which may be different than what you think of now as "thin"). Once you eat healthy on a regular basis and get off the roller coaster, your body may get there on its own. For those of us with eating disorders understanding that we can be at a good weight and just stay there, neither losing nor gaining (except the normal 3-4 pound flucuations) is a revelation! I've been at the right weight for my height and build for quite awhile.
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