When is the most difficult time for you not to engage in eating disorder behaviours? Is it directly after a meal? Is it when you are alone? Bored? Is it after a fight with a friend/partner/family member? Is it pre or post your therapy session? Have your behaviours become habit/pattern that you do without much thought throughout the day? Here are a few tips to help you push through the times where you may want to engage.
#1 Eat with Someone - Eating with a friend or family member can help act as a form of accountability. It can also ease the distress of the meal process as well as post meal anxieties. Strike up a conversation with the person(s) eating with you to help get you out of your head and into the moment. Be sure to pick a 'safe' friend or family member who can support instead of trigger you. If you know Aunt Alma continually comments of how full she is or likes to bring up emotional issues, it might be a good idea to pick someone else. Again, don't forget to have a conversation with this person around what you need from them so you all enter the situation prepared. One last thing... eat at the table in front of the t.v. to aid in mindful eating!
#2 Create a Distraction Plan - Make a list of 20 activities you could do during your 'high risk' times (high risk in the sense you are at a 'higher risk' of engaging in eating disorder behaviours). From that list, try doing 5 to 10 of such activities to distract you from your urge. Try avoiding putting exercise on your list to avoid creating an unhealthy association between it and food. To help you get started with your list, here are a few activities.
- watch a t.v. show, read a chapter in a book, colour, paint, sing, look up places to vacation or of cute sloths (well... that won't be hard as all sloths are cute!!), journal, call a friend, write a letter, send an e-mail, do the dishes, clean, do your homework, create a play list of music, collage, card making, crossword puzzle
#3 Plan Ahead - Take time to figure out when you are most at risk for engaging in eating disorder behaviour and plan for it. Don't just wing it, hoping your urges won't get the better of you. It's okay to have a plan! Set a specific day where you go grocery shopping and create a meal plan for the week. Plan appointments so they don't run over meal times. If they do, know where you are going to have your meal or snack so it doesn't act as an excuse to engage in ED behaviours. If you struggle with purging after mealtimes, have a guideline where you cannot leave the table for at least 30-45 mins after eating (which would be a good time to do some of the activities listed above).
#4 Non-negotiatbles - Get back to the basics and set up some non-negotiatbles. These would be things you do, regardless of how you emotionally or physically feel. So, when you are sad, mad, anxious, etc, non-negotiables are thing you do regardless of the emotion that is present. Also, in the early parts of recovery, hunger cues may be out of whack, making them not reliable as to whether or not you feel like eating. Remember, everyone's recovery is different and non-negotiables may look different depending on what you need to be successful in your recovery. For example, non-negotiables for one person could mean eating at the exact time for each meal, while another may have more room for flexibility as long as they still eat three meals per day and a snack(s). Other non-negotiables may entail only exercising on designated days or a specific amount of times per week. The point isn't to be rigid or 'perfect' in your recovery as it is to help you do what you need to do to be healthy.
#5 Talk with Your Therapist - Expect struggle and urges! It's part of the recovery journey. There will be times where you have tried all of the above and still engage in behaviours. Try talking with your therapist as to what happened, what you tried and what you could try the next time. Nip behaviours in the bud when they happen and be open about them.