Recovering from my eating disorder was one of the hardest mental challenges I have ever had to face (I won’t say completed because I think there will always be parts that stay with me, at least for the time being). By no means was it straight forward or quick, and I relied a lot on the help of my family. However there were some techniques that really helped me finally put on the weight I needed to gain and get better.
Constantly remind yourself why you’re doing it
As embarrassing as it is to admit, when I finally decided I wanted to recover, I wrote myself a letter. But it worked. Anyone suffering from a mental illness will know that your mind can change like the weather and deciding you’re going to get better one day could be the complete opposite to how you feel the next. Reading the letter I had written every time I changed my mind helped me stay (mostly) on track and not take too much of a step backwards. It reminded me of what I was aiming for and why and was a way of rationalising my thoughts myself.
Write down all of the bad things about your ED
As well as the letter I wrote down all of the things I absolutely hated about being in the state that I was in, both mental and physical: I was depressed, my hair was falling out all the time, I looked painfully thin, I was tired all the time, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t enjoy anything, I was getting palpitations, I was always cold… you get the idea. After reading this it was much easier to think, why the hell would I want to stay like this (not easy, but easier).
Create an inspiration board
By this I do not mean go and pick out all of the Victoria’s Secret models you want to look like. Instead, put together a board of pictures of yourself where you think you look nice and are a healthy weight and aim to get back to that. Not only does it stop you from comparing yourself to, and aiming to be like somebody else, but it’s a great technique for boosting your self esteem by picking out the positives in yourself on a regular basis.
Take regular pictures of yourself and have them on hand for the times when you look at your healthy self and think that you’re ‘fatter than that already’. The mirror tells lies but pictures were, for me, much more difficult for my head to distort. Put the two side by side and see that you still have some recovering to do.
Focus on how you feel rather than how you look or weigh
Throw away the scales and cover up the mirrors! Body dismorphia is a bitch and checking yourself in the mirror every time you go to the toilet is counterproductive to the end goal. Get rid of the scales- your weight doesn’t matter and it only encourages the obsession.
Listen to your stomach
Instead of letting the scales, or the clock, tell you when you should and shouldn’t eat, let your stomach do the talking (or grumbling). A healthy relationship with food is to eat when your hungry until you are no longer hungry. So try your best to do it. I don’t care if you’ve just had dinner an hour ago, and neither does your body. It needs more and the only way to get better is to listen to it.
Have distraction techniques in place
Of course, it’s not that easy or there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place! Pushing yourself against your illness and eating that extra food is going to create huge feelings of guilt and discomfort. That’s why you need to have distractions. Things that you can fill your time with, especially after eating that will take your mind off what you’ve eat and show you there are other things in life. Phone a friend to chat with, go for a walk with your mum, read a book, whatever your thing is, do it. Try to steer clear from mindless things like watching a repeat of friends you’ve already seen or drawing. Although these are great for relaxation any other time, they make it too easy for the mind to wander and focus back on unhealthy thoughts. Try and find something that really requires your full attention.
Go easy on yourself
Easier said than done, but be forgiving. You’re only human and you’ve been starving yourself for a long time. It’s not disgusting or a sign you’ve lost control when you eat every single biscuit and chocolate in the house as well as a pizza followed by a sandwich then a piece of cake (yes I’ve done that), it’s nature. It’s a natural response and it’s what you need so try not to beat yourself up over something that’s part of your instinctive DNA.