Making the decision to start the journey of recovery from an eating disorder (ED) can be one of the most important, yet scariest decisions of your life. It can be hard to think of a good starting point when it comes to addressing ingrained thoughts and behaviours. Here are some tips from Michelle from Riverwalk’s Faces of Recovery campaign:
It can be difficult to try to go it alone. Share your struggles with a trusted supporter and let them know that what you are going through is serious. Educate yourself and refer trusted supporters to information from NEDIC to help educate them. Let them know that you are thinking about making a change, but that it will be very difficult and you’ll need their help. Offer specific suggestions for things they can do to help you and let them know about things they do/say that aren’t helpful. Here is a helpful article about readiness to change that you can read and share with your supporters.
Some people have found treatment programs to be helpful. Waitlists for OHIP-covered treatment programs can be long so if you think you need intensive treatment, talk to your family doctor and seek a referral ASAP. For info on what you can do while you’re on a waitlist, check out this article. Here are some more helpful links. Medical monitoring can also be important, which is why I made regular appointments with my family doctor.
These are some strategies that worked for me: In order to normalize my eating, I made small, manageable changes to my food repertoire. I added things that were challenging, but doable. I tried to add one new thing each week, without taking the previous week’s thing away. If that’s too challenging to begin with, try giving yourself a limited time (eg. 4 weeks). But after that amount of time, try to start normalizing your eating by adding one new thing each week. You can also try to make small, manageable changes to your exercise routine by lessening your amount of time/intensity by small increments each week. Do 5 minutes less each week, or do 5 mins of stretching/cool down instead of more intensive exercise. (Please note: This is not intended to act as medical advice – these are just some strategies that worked for me.)
Give your scale to a trusted supporter and try to cut down your use of it. Limit to 2 or 3 days a week and make it so you have to ask for it from your supporter in order to use it. If possible, just stop using it! It’s just a number and it is not an indication of health or self-worth.
Things I did and kept in mind to make these changes more tolerable:
- Use the mantra! Health = Freedom.
- Focus on health and nutrition. You are fueling your body with healthy nutrients so it can have energy to do the things you want to do.
- Remember that if you continue to work out like crazy and not fuel yourself, your body will start consuming your muscle to survive.
- Remember that if you don’t fuel yourself, your concentration and memory and energy will continue to diminish. Next, your body will start consuming muscle and bone. Then your body will start consuming your organs. Next is death. This is not speculation, this is FACT. Anorexia is THE MOST lethal mental illness.
- Remember that when you start normalizing your eating, the urge to binge will diminish. The urge to binge is your body’s survival mechanism.
- Remember all the reasons why you’re making this change! If it’s helpful, write them on a bright, colourful piece of paper and stick it up somewhere visible. This could be:
- Wanting to be able to enjoy food and cooking again!
- Wanting to be able to enjoy social events and time with friends again!
- Not wanting to be deceptive any more!
- Not wanting to spend your whole cognitive energy on counting, obsessing, tallying, etc.!
- Wanting to have energy and be able to concentrate!
- Wanting to be fit! You need fuel to be fit, otherwise your body will start consuming your muscle, bone, etc.
- WANTING YOUR LIFE BACK!
Check out Faces of Recovery member Wendy’s video for some more strategies on how to normalize eating in recovery and how to cope with difficulties using wellness activities. You can also explore occupational therapy support through Riverwalk to learn about how making changes to your daily activities can help with mental health.
YOU CAN DO IT! It will be really hard but remind yourself of the reasons why you want to make a change, write them down and stick them up around your house! Think of all the wonderful things you can do with your life when you don’t have your eating disorder! Imagine a future without your ED and allow yourself to conceive of this future as better, healthier, more free, happier, more fulfilling than the life you’re living now. Because I guarantee it will be.
Keep fighting the good fight!