Taking steps of action and making changes are two of the most difficult things to do. But yet, they’re so essential to personal growth and recovery.
Here are four things that were instrumental to my recovery, and hopefully they can help you too.
1. Admit that you need help
I cannot stress this one enough. So often we feel like we must go it alone. We get hung up on the fact that we don’t “look” like we have an eating disorder.
Herein lies a common misconception of our society: People with eating disorders are pale and emaciated. This is, of course, false, because eating disorders hide in all types of bodies.
Because we are a part of society, we tend to use this as an excuse to avoid asking for help. “I’m not skinny enough to look like I have an eating disorder, therefore, nobody will believe me.”
Stop those thoughts and reach out for help.
My doctor referred me to the eating disorder recovery program at a local hospital. In order to attend the weekly counseling meetings, I had to make changes in my schedule and ask for time off from work. But I did it because it was important.
Recovery is important – it will change your life. Just ask for help.
2. Be aware
Living in the depths of an eating disorder is like blindly feeling your way around with your eyes closed. All you have to do to change your situation is to open your eyes.
After you reach out for help, you must open your eyes to those feelings that trigger your unhealthy behaviors.
How do you do that? Start small. Carry a notepad around with you for a full day and make a commitment to pay close attention to your thoughts.
For example, when I first started my recovery, I found out early on that I was extremely anxious… about everything.
When I felt anxiety come on, I would immediately turn to an unhealthy behavior to help me cope with it. Whether it was drinking, or binging, or binging then purging, it was my way of dealing. But it never actually took care of the problem.
When I made an honest effort to become aware of the pattern, I was finally able to change it.
3. Create new habits
After you seek out help, and after you take some time to become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, it is time to start working on new habits.
When I realized that anxiety was triggering the bulimia, I started a breathing ritual to steer me in the right direction. If I felt anxious, I would stop whatever I was doing, close my eyes, and breathe deeply for as long as I needed to in order to let the episode pass.
Breathing is an option, but you can do whatever makes you feel comfortable. Maybe for you it’s journaling, stretching (note: I didn’t say exercising, as this can develop into an unhealthy behavior), reading, talking it out to yourself (you may look like a crazy person, but if it works, then who cares?), jumping up and down for a few minutes, watching funny YouTube videos, or even cleaning you house.
The point is, you have to start somewhere.
Pick something that you think might work to replace old, unhealthy habits, and start doing that instead. Keep trying new things until you’ve found something that works. In the beginning of my recovery, nothing felt as good as a binge/purge session, but over time, it got easier.
4. Learn to love yourself
Self-love was a foreign, but essential concept for me to grasp in order to recover. I told myself everyday that I loved me.
I talked about it, wrote it in my journal, made little sticky notes with love messages to myself on them, etc.
We often think that we are not worthy of self-love, or that it is selfish to love ourselves. This, like many of our other beliefs, is untrue.
It is perfectly normal and healthy to love yourself.
Set a goal to declare how much you love yourself at least 10 times per day. Trust me, even though you do not believe it right now, with enough repetition, it eventually becomes true.
Are you ready?
These are the first steps that I took to recovery and I took them in this order.
Recovery doesn’t have to be perfect, and your recovery might look different than mine. But this is where I started, and it’s a good place to begin.