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Practical tools to help you in your recovery

23 August 2019

Category: Tips

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Welcome to the Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder self-help series {blog 4 of 5}

In previous blogs we learnt about binge eating disorder and bulimia. We also discussed common causes of these eating disorders and why it’s normal to have mixed feelings about recovery. In this post we’ll give you some practical tools and strategies you can use in your healing journey.

A journal

In the previous blogs we asked you to reflect on some questions. You may have used a journal for those exercise. If not, now may be a good time to get a journal.

A journal is a great way to self-monitor where you gain greater awareness and learn about your own eating disorder, which is crucial to moving towards recovery.

Although it can be scary and confronting to track what you think, feel, eat and do with food, it’s vital to gaining a greater understanding of the real issues underlying your unhelpful relationship with food.

Self-monitoring has many benefits. A self-monitoring journal:

  • Encourages you to explore the thoughts that influence your eating.
  • Helps you to identify helpful and the not-so-helpful thought patterns behind your food choices. For example, thinking negatively about yourself and your self-worth may lead to overeating. By recording your thoughts, you become more aware of this pattern and can begin to counteract these thoughts.
  • Helps you identify situations that lead to disordered eating. For example, you may be in the habit of skipping meals all day, getting home in the afternoon feeling extremely hungry, and then binge eating. By recording this behaviour, it becomes easier to see the harmful patterns that maintain your disordered eating.
  • Gives you the opportunity to review your thoughts and notice patterns and behaviours you may have not seen otherwise.

A self-monitoring journal can be confronting and might even make you think about food more in the short term, however it can be very helpful for long term positive change! Remember, you can always contact our Helpline and get support to help you reflect on what you’ve written.

Regular eating

It sounds simple enough, but if you’re experiencing an eating disorder, regularly timed meals can feel overwhelming – especially if you’re taking it all one meal at a time. However regularly timed meals can be a powerful tool in your recovery arsenal.

Regular eating means eating something every few hours so that the body and mind don’t enter into starvation mode. Sometimes after a binge, people want to restrict, or ‘make up’ in some way for the binge. It’s important to eat the next scheduled meal as one would normally, despite any feelings of guilt and shame.

A new meal is a new opportunity to start fresh, whether your last meal was a binge or not. It’s also powerful in helping your body get used to eating regular amounts of food at regular times.

Delaying a binge

It can feel like the hardest thing in the world to delay a binge, when all you want to do is head to the fridge, or raid the cookie jar. The urge for a sweet treat when you’ve had a hard day or you’re struggling to cope is strong, but there is a practical reason to resist the binge.

When you practice delaying a binge it’s like flexing and building a muscle – the more you do it the easier it gets.

If the urge strikes you and you notice what you want to do, now is a great time to get out your journal. You can ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to eat right now?
  • What do I really want?
  • Is there a way I can give myself what I really want without harming myself?

When we delay a binge and choose another action, in this case journaling, we’re creating new pathways in the brain. The more we practice delaying a binge the stronger the new pathways become. It takes time, but every time you delay and extend your binge you’re getting stronger.

Urge surfing

Waves on the ocean come and go. They go up and down. They can be small and they can be big. You can’t fight them. You can’t change them. But you can watch them for what they are – a marvel of mother nature.

When you urge surf you’re taking the opportunity to simply witness the waves rise and fall. You can pay attention to their size and speed, without fighting the urge to change them.

The good thing about urges, they don’t last forever. Urges usually peak between 20 – 30 minutes. So when you feel the urge to binge you have the opportunity to witness that strong feeling without acting on it knowing it won’t last forever.

Every urge surf you do, where you witness the urge instead of acting on it, you get stronger and stronger. And the best thing is that the urges start to show up less and less and they get weaker too.

Reflection

Real power comes when learning to stop and reflect on our recovery journey. It’s in those small moments of pause and reflection where we can empower ourselves to make more helpful choices.

You can use our worksheet, or perhaps a journal to reflect on the following questions.

  1. Do you think your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are linked? If so, how?
  2. When you’re consciously delaying a binge it’s useful to start with the smallest amount of time possible and slowly increase it each time. You can time it with your smart phone and keep a record of it in your journal. How do you feel during the delay? How do you feel after you have delayed a binge?
  3. Urge surfing can help with a range of urges. When you’re witnessing your urge to binge what do you notice in your physical body? What are some thoughts that come up?

Help is available

You might find some of these exercises difficult or scary. You might even forget to give it a go and that’s ok. Don’t give up and remember you can always try again next time. It’s about practice and persistence.

And you can always contact our Helpline and get support as you work through the questions. Butterfly Foundation’s National Helpline can give you free information, referrals and brief counselling. We’re open from 8am – midnight AEST, seven days a week, and you can chat via phone, webchat or email.

A final thought

If you think you might have an eating disorder, it’s important to talk to your doctor, as there are many physical complications that can occur from having an eating disorder. Get in touch with our team and we can connect you with a professional who has experience in eating disorders.  

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Final blog in this series

Nourish yourself with a healthy dose of self-kindness {blog 5 of 5}

Do you want to learn more?

The caring team at the Butterfly Foundation are here to help answer questions. Call our friendly National Helpline team on 1800 33 4673, or connect with via webchat or email.

If you need urgent assistance or support, please ring Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

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