12 Apr 7 simple ways to help yourself recover from an eating disorder.
There is no substitute for professional help when you have an eating disorder. However, there are some simple things you can do to help yourself.
- 1. Regular eating
Perhaps you are not eating enough to meet your energy needs. Regular eating to provide energy and nutrition for your body is a good first step. It might be very challenging to eat at first, but don’t worry, the regularity is more important than the volume.
You might be overweight or obese and believe you need to eat less, not more. However, you will probably be feasting and fasting throughout the day, so again regulating your food intake will start to regulate and balance your blood sugar levels and this may result in a reduction of food cravings and a reduction in bingeing.
- Eat in company
This may mean planning ahead to ensure meals are taken at times other people will be present. Try to keep topics of conversation positive, and avoid talking about food, calories, fat or sugar content. Mealtimes are a good opportunity for a person with an eating disorder to learn to associate eating with a pleasant environment. Mealtimes may cause anxiety and you may find it easier to eat alone, but be brave and involve someone you trust to help you during mealtimes.
- Eat food that provides good nutrition
Eat real fresh food. Plenty of fruit and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, protein and water.
Good nutrition reduces cravings, provides energy and increases your ability to think clearly. You will feel more able to tackle the more difficult aspects of an eating disorder if you have a nutritionally dense diet.
- Avoid weighing and mirrors
People can become dependent on the scales to tell them if it’s going to be a good or a bad day!
You might feel you need the ‘approval’ of the scales, but continual weighing or scrutinising your reflection in the mirror will not help you break free from insecurities about weight or shape.
- Keep a food diary
A food diary may help you to recognise patterns that occur in your eating behaviour. You might notice ‘triggers’ that result in a binge or a long period of not eating at all. A food diary might help you to focus on eating more regularly in future. The food diary should note food and drink intake, location, your level of hunger (out of 10) and any emotional context (were you upset, angry, sad, relaxed, happy?) This can be a very surprising and revealing tool.
- Take regular exercise
Studies have shown exercise to have a positive effect on low self-esteem and poor body image. We encourage gentle but regular exercise. Walking or swimming can be ideal. Find something which you enjoy, as exercise should not be seen as a punishment or as compensatory behaviour for a overindulgence.
- Be patient
Unhealthy relationships with food do not develop overnight and it may take months or even years to recover from an eating disorder.
Ideally you should seek help from a health professional who knows specifically how to assess and treat eating disorders.
Some of the health professionals who are trained with us here at ACFED include counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, hypnotherapists, and dietitians who really understand what you are going through. More importantly, they have the skills to be able to help you recover and develop a more contented relationship with food.
We have ACFED approved practitioners in most Australian state capitals, and many offer Skype or phone sessions for people in regional or rural areas. We also have practitioners in New Zealand. Find someone to help you here…