Recovery from eating disorders is a long and complicated journey. When you struggle with an eating disorder, you have to confront it every single day. The disordered thoughts may always be present in the back of your mind, and they come to the surface whenever you’re faced with food or other triggers. Eating disorders are extremely persistent, so building up self-help strategies is vital for your recovery.
Professional treatment is always recommended for eating disorders. In some cases, medical care is necessary to address the physical damage that eating disorders cause to the body. Many people with eating disorders recover with the help of medical doctors and mental health professionals. However, there are also plenty of self-help measures you can use on your own.
Maybe you’re in the early stages of recovery and don’t feel ready to reach out for professional help. Maybe you’re already committed to your therapy sessions but need extra strategies to make each day easier. No matter where you are in your recovery, you can take active steps to care for yourself.
Here Are Five Self-help Strategies for Recovering from Eating Disorders
1. Talk to Someone You Trust
It’s easy to become completely isolated when you’re dealing with eating disorders. You might become convinced that no one cares about you, or you might isolate yourself so that you can engage in the harmful behaviors without making anyone suspicious. Opening up to someone about your struggles can be stressful, but it’s a great step to take toward recovery.
You don’t have to open up in great detail about what you’re going through. Sharing with a trusted loved one that you’re struggling with food and eating can help you feel less alone, though. People don’t always know how to react when someone confides in them about an eating disorder, but you could try to communicate exactly what you need. For example, you could ask your best friend to attend a social gathering with you if you know you’ll have a hard time during the event. You could also ask a loved one to eat with you if the social support during mealtimes will help.
2. Create an Eating Schedule
Routine and structure can be very helpful in your recovery. In many cases, people with eating disorders have distorted hunger and fullness cues, so it’s difficult to know when to eat. Following a loose eating schedule ensures that you’re giving your body the fuel it needs, which helps with both the physical and mental aspects of recovery. Sticking to a schedule also reduces the mental energy you exert over food and eating. Instead of worrying about when you should next eat or whether you’re hungry enough to eat, you can assure yourself that you’ll eat at your scheduled mealtime.
However, you should also be careful not to become so dependent on a specific eating schedule that you feel anxious if the routine is disrupted. Eating disorders are all about control, and people sometimes try to gain a sense of control by sticking to a rigid eating schedule. Following a meal schedule is a form of self-help when it reduces your anxiety, but it can be self-destructive when you rely on it for feelings of control.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a powerful self-help tool for many mental health conditions, including eating disorders. By practicing mindfulness, you learn how to be aware of your body and mind without judgment. Eating disorders often cause intense reactions to certain thoughts or body sensations. For instance, you might panic at the feeling of fullness in your stomach and start going down a vicious thought spiral. Mindfulness will help you acknowledge that feeling of fullness without experiencing such a strong emotional reaction.
You can practice mindfulness meditation on your own or with the help of your therapist or a support group. To start, find a comfortable and quiet place to meditate. Then, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing. Try to notice your thoughts and feelings without lingering on them. Allow yourself to experience each passing moment without self-judgment. This form of meditation becomes easier with time, and it can have powerful benefits for your overall mental health.
4. Be Compassionate with Yourself
You have to be kind to yourself as you work toward overcoming your eating disorder. Recovery from eating disorders is never an easy or linear experience. Some days will be better than other days and slipping back into harmful behaviors from time to time is not a sign that you’re failing. What’s most important is that your patient with yourself as you keep trying.
Understanding and honoring your limits is important, too. Recovery should be your priority, and it’s okay to decline invitations or avoid certain situations if you know they’ll be triggering. Give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do to care for yourself.
5. Work With a Therapist
Self-help strategies can do wonders for your mental health as you recover from eating disorders. However, recovering on your own is not easy. If you’re struggling to get your disordered thoughts and behaviors under control, it might be time to reach out to a therapist for support.
Confiding in a therapist can be incredibly scary at the beginning of your recovery. Eating disorders thrive on secrecy. Talking about your challenges with someone may feel uncomfortable at first, but this is one of the best ways to develop the skills you need to fully recover. Your therapy sessions are your opportunity to learn more about your eating disorder and how it influences your emotions and behaviors. As you gain a stronger sense of self-awareness, you disordered thoughts begin to lose their power over you.
You can make the most of your therapy sessions by continuing to use self-help techniques as often as possible. Your therapy sessions are a chance to check in with yourself and make a plan for the coming days or weeks. Recovery happens when you consistently apply self-care and self-help skills throughout your daily life. Your therapist will help you lay the groundwork for recovery, but the skills you practice every day will make the biggest difference.
Eating disorders are painful and isolating illnesses, but you don’t have to recover alone. The Beverly Hills Therapy Group offers therapy for individuals recovering from eating disorders. If you’re looking for an eating disorder therapist in Beverly Hills, please contact us today.