As we approach 2016 it is a time for looking back and looking ahead to the coming year. It’s a time to reflect on the changes we need to make and resolve to follow through on those changes. What can help those of us attempting to recover from eating disorders?
1. Ditch the scale. Although it has it’s purpose, for most people with eating disorders the scale takes on a life of its own, and often takes over ours. Everyone’s weight has ups and downs. Don’t let the scale determine how you feel about yourself, what kind of day it will be, or whether you can allow yourself to do something you want to. If you have been told that weighing yourself is a goal, only do so once a week.
2. Stop obsessing about food. Imagine you have no issues about food, eating, body image or weight. What would it be like? Pick a day to act “as if” you have no issues about food or eating. Experience it and know what it can be life.
3. Catch the negative body talk. It’s pervasive, and we are often unaware of how frequently it occurs. You may choose to count how many times a day you engage in negative body talk, or simply to label it and stop it. The point is to not continue these statements that sabotage our self-esteem.
4. Speaking of saboteurs, get rid of them. Do you have people in your life that put you down? That reinforce negative feelings about yourself? Who engage in diet talk? Are you a frequent visitor to Pro-Ana sites? Stop. Take a step back. Surround yourself with positive people and supports.
5. Affirm yourself. With all the negative talk, thoughts and actions, the idea of affirming yourself often gets lost. Think of things that are your strengths —what do you like about yourself? If it’s too hard to look at physical characteristics, start with something you like, such as the fact that you are loyal or a hard worker. Eventually begin to add positive statements about your body as well.
6. Recognize and respond to your needs. Everyone has needs, and although many people with eating disorders are excellent about taking care of others they neglect themselves. Start by making a list to identify what your needs are. Be specific and realistic. Begin to get these needs met.
7. Nurture yourself without food. For many with eating disorders, food becomes a primary way to receive love. Think of things you can do to nurture yourself without food. Fill your house with fresh flowers, take a warm bath, pet a furry friend. Most of all, take care of you.
8. Make mindfulness part of your life. Mindfulness involves deliberately paying attention in a non-judgmental way. Mindfulness practices allow the person to attend to what is present for them emotionally and physically in each moment. Try using mindfulness practices to decrease anxiety and to eat in a more aware, deliberate way.
9. Connect with your body. People with eating disorders spend more time outside of their bodies than connected with them. This disconnection is one of the things that allows them to punish the body through starving, binging or purging. So, get connected. Guided imagery and other mind-body practices such as yoga are all great tools.
10. Write a love letter to yourself. Yes, I know it sounds silly, but what a powerful experience. You are a gift, with wonderful things about yourself. We’ve talked about the need to affirm these strengths and now it’s time to get serious by putting it in writing. Make the love letter one you’ve always wanted to receive. After your first writing, go back and edit out any inadvertent criticisms. Put the letter in an envelope and mail it.
Happy New Year.