To someone suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, the inner battle of never feeling happy or good enough is challenging. In order to recover your sense of self you will have to learn to love yourself for exactly who you are. Escaping your eating disorder is not impossible no matter what your age or gender. With the support of others, self help strategies, and treatment you can learn to feel confident and comfortable in your skin.
Recovering from an Eating Disorder
When you hang on to the idea that losing weight is the ticket to happiness, success, and confidence, you become stuck in the web of an eating disorder. Recovery will first start with admitting that you have a problem. Though the habits of restricting and purging are hard to break, once you have an understanding that it is a problem you are well on your way to recovering.
You are going to need help in learning how to change your eating disorder behaviors. Overcoming an eating disorder does not only require you to change your eating habits it also means learning who you are aside from your weight and body image. In order to truly recover you will need to learn to: listen to your body, listen to your feelings, trust yourself, accept yourself, love yourself, and learn to enjoy life again.
Help for Anorexia and Bulimia
The blueprint for treatment of an eating disorder will vary based on the individual. It is essential that you meet with a healthcare professional to help develop a plan of action for treatment.
Ask for Help
Feelings of fear, embarrassment, and shame are likely running through your mind when you think about getting help from others who care about you. However, it is necessary and one of the first steps to truly recovering. If you find it to be too much asking for help from others, you can always talk with medical and mental health professionals instead.
No matter who you decide to reach out to you need to pick a time to discuss what is going on with you. It is important to keep in mind that the news might come as a shock to whomever you tell and thus you need to be patient in receiving a response. When they are ready to talk educate them on your eating disorder and express ways you would like them to support you in your journey to recovery.
Locate a Specialist
Overcoming an eating disorder is always best when you have someone who is an experienced medical professional working with you. When searching for professional help it is imperative that you locate someone who has experience in anorexia or bulimia. When researching professionals you should obtain the services of someone who you feel comfortable and safe with. You can begin looking for professionals by talking with your doctor, local hospitals or medical centers, school nurse or guidance counselor, or the National Eating Disorders Association.
“Eating disorders have their own language and when possible all clinicians involved should have specialized expertise in this area. Many clinicians say they treat EDs but ask and check up on what ED associations they belong to and ask if they attend conferences and special training. This is true for nutritionist, therapists, and doctors. Less qualified clinicians will cost time and health.” – Dr. Jeffery Desarbo
Address Your Health Problems
Both anorexia and bulimia can be deadly even if you are not severely underweight. Even if you only restrict or purge on occasion your health could still be at risk. You need to be evaluated to determine if you have any health problems. If the evaluation presents problems, they will need to be taken care of right away. In some severe cases you may have to be admitted to the hospital to stay safe.
Create a Long Term Treatment Plan
After your health problems have been addressed and treated you and your doctor or therapist will develop a long term recovery plan. The first step to making this happen is to create an eating disorder team. The team can include your primary care physician, nutritionist, social worker, psychiatrist, and nutritionist. From there the team will create a treatment plan based on your individual needs. Part of the treatment plan might include: education on eating disorders, nutritional counseling, inpatient treatment, family therapy, medical monitoring, and individual or group therapy.
Your long term treatment plan needs to address more than just your destructive eating habits. It needs to also work on the root of the problem such as your emotional triggers that drive you to want to eat so poorly.
Treatment Options for Anorexia and Bulimia
There are plenty of methods for treating eating disorders; however, it will be up to you to find the treatment, or combination of treatments that are most effective for you.
Therapy is vital for treating bulimia and anorexia. There are several ways your therapist can work with you to recover. This might include addressing feelings caused by your eating disorder. Because methods are different for every therapist, it is ideal that you have a talk with them about what your goals are in working towards recovery.
Most commonly used for eating disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy. The goal is to target the negative eating behaviors from the disorder and the negative thoughts that trigger the behavior. The objective is for you to become aware of how you use foods to cope with emotions. You will essentially be taught what your emotional triggers are and how you can either avoid or combat them.
The job of the nutritionist is to assist you in learning healthier eating behaviors that can be used in your everyday life. While your eating habits will not change overnight working with a nutritionist for a long period of time could help you learn to develop a better relationship with foods you eat.
Even if you have a group of family members and friends to support you, many suffering from eating disorders have found comfort in joining support groups. The group strives to provide a safe environment where sufferers are able to openly discuss their eating disorder and get advice or support from others who are experiencing the same thing.
There are several types of eating disorder support groups. Some groups are run by a therapist, while others are run by those who have recovered from an eating disorder. You can find out more about eating disorder support groups in your area by asking your doctor for a referral, calling local hospitals, calling eating disorder clinics, visiting with the school guidance counselor, or searching the National Eating Disorder Association’s site.
Learning New Coping Skills
Eating disorders are not essentially about the food. They are methods that are used to cope with painful or overwhelming emotions. The only way to combat the negative eating habits is to learn healthier ways to cope with negative emotions. The first step to coping with your emotions is to take a serious look on the inside and determine what is going on. Are you depressed? Stressed? Feeling lonely? After you’ve determined what you are feeling you can learn better methods for dealing with them.
A few ways you can cope with your feelings are:
- Write it down
- Talk to a close friend
- Listen to uplifting music
- Play with a pet
- See a movie
- Talk a walk
- Get some fresh air
- Play a game
- Read a book
- Be a good Samaritan
Improving Your Self Image
When you judge yourself based on your looks alone you are selling yourself short. There are so many other qualities that you have that make you special. When you place too much significance on how you look you develop a low self esteem and insecurities. You need to learn how to look at yourself in a more positive light. To do this you might:
- Make a list of all your positive qualities
- Focus on parts of your body that you like
- Challenge your negative thoughts
Learning Healthier Eating Habits
Another vital portion to overcoming an eating disorder is learning healthier eating habits. Some ways to accomplish this are to: maintain a regular eating schedule, challenge (or modify until you are comfortable) your strict eating habits, and stop dieting.
Preventing a Relapse
Once you have developed healthier eating habits you are then going to have to work hard at preventing a relapse. Steps you can take to preventing a relapse and assuring progress are to: continue to rely on your support system, stick to the long term treatment plan, find positive activities to do daily, avoid websites that support eating disorders, and learn to identify your triggers so you can avoid or combat them. Recovery will take your mind, body, medical treatment, and the support of others, but remember it is not impossible.
For more information on treatment for eating disorders consider these sources:
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