Starting your recovery journey: tips for success
Deciding to begin your recovery from an eating disorder is a scary and usually ambivalent decision, but it is a courageous step towards reclaiming your health, your mental well-being and your life.
As you begin this transformative process, it's essential to equip yourself with effective strategies and the right mindset to navigate the obstacles that will arise. In this article, I want to explore some valuable tips to support you on your eating disorder recovery journey.
We'll discuss the reasons to recover, how to approach fear foods, techniques for managing intrusive thoughts and anxiety, and celebrate the victories along the way.
Embracing Your Reasons to Recover: An important first step towards a successful recovery is understanding and embracing the reasons why you want to recover. Take some time to reflect on how your eating disorder has affected your life negatively. Consider the impact on your physical health, relationships, self-esteem, anxiety levels and overall happiness. Remind yourself of the life you aspire to live and the things you might want to do and achieve. These can be anything- being able to take your dog for a walk again, get back into university, go inter-railing, be able to focus during family movie night, or take a year to travel the UK in a van. Being able to look at these goals can serve as a powerful motivation to overcome challenges and stay committed to your recovery journey.
Keeping these goals in mind can serve as a powerful motivation to overcome challenges and stay committed to your recovery journey.
2. Start to eat regularly. This is such an important foundation for everything in your recovery; how you approach it depends on what point you're starting from. Try eating something every 3 to 4 hours , and, although you may struggle with having breakfast, eating first thing is going to be vital in establishing this structure for the rest of the day.
3. Approach Fear Foods Gradually. Fear foods are those that trigger anxiety or distress due to their perceived association with weight gain, body image concerns or ideas of 'healthy' vs 'unhealthy'. Gradually exposing yourself to fear foods can help break the cycle of fear and avoidance. Start by creating a list of fear foods and rank them based on the level of anxiety they provoke. Begin with the least anxiety-inducing food and gradually work your way up the list. Seek support from a therapist who specializes in eating disorders to guide you through this process and help you develop a healthier relationship with food.
Gradually exposing yourself to fear foods can help break the cycle of fear and avoidance. Start by creating a list of fear foods and rank them based on the level of anxiety they provoke.
4. Employ Distraction Techniques. Intrusive thoughts and anxiety can be overwhelming during the recovery process. Distraction techniques can provide relief and redirect your focus. Engage in activities that captivate your attention, such as reading or listening to a book or podcast, watching your favourite comedy show or cartoon, pursuing a hobby, or spending time with loved ones. Physical activities like gentle walking, yoga, qi gong or practicing shaking therapy can all help alleviate anxiety and promote a sense of calm. Experiment with various techniques to find what works best for you and incorporate them into your daily routine.
5. Develop Coping Mechanisms for Intrusive Thoughts. Intrusive thoughts can be persistent and challenging to manage. Instead of trying to suppress or eliminate them entirely, learn to acknowledge and reframe them. Practice self-compassion and challenge negative self-talk by replacing critical thoughts with positive affirmations. Consider keeping a journal to jot down your intrusive thoughts and emotions, allowing you to analyse patterns and identify triggers. Share your thoughts and concerns with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist who can offer support and guidance.
6. Celebrate Recovery Wins. Recognizing and celebrating the milestones you achieve during your recovery journey is crucial for maintaining motivation and a positive mindset. Recovery wins can include moments when you challenge a fear food, practice self-care, or engage in activities that bring you pleasure and fulfilment. Document these victories in a recovery journal or create a visual representation, such as a recovery tree or a jar filled with accomplishment notes. Reflecting on how far you've come can boost your confidence and remind you of your resilience.
So the takeaway from this is that embarking on an eating disorder recovery journey requires determination, resilience, and self-compassion. By understanding the reasons to recover ( if that's what you don't want any more or what you're recovering towards, or a mixture of both), approaching fear foods gradually, employing distraction techniques, developing coping mechanisms for intrusive thoughts, and celebrating recovery wins, you can cultivate a supportive and empowering environment for your healing process.
Remember, your recovery is unique-comparing yourself to recovery stories on social media and believing that's how your journey 'should' look, is only going to pull you into feelings of failure and shame. Seeking professional help from healthcare providers and therapists specializing in eating disorders is essential for comprehensive support. You deserve a life free from the constraints of an eating disorder, and with each step forward, you are one step closer to achieving it.
Need help? get in touch today to set up a free consultation.