I feel fat. It’s a common feeling you have almost daily in recovery and it never gets easier. When you have an eating disorder your reality is often controlled by how you feel. If you feel fat that means you are fat, so fat becomes your reality. It becomes impossible to distinguish between logical thoughts with eating disorder feelings. There are plenty of recovery resources that give lists of self care and distraction methods to help deal with the dreaded fat days, or should I say almost everyday however I never found any of them to help. How could I care for myself when I was so full of disgust and self loathing that no amount of distraction could help quiet the chaotic thoughts. What I have found to personal help me through my recovery is to realise that you are NOT your thoughts or feelings. In fact being able to observe and accept your thoughts and feelings is a crucial step in the recovery journey.
Often eating disorders are used as a control mechanism to help cope with the uncertainties of life. Through restriction I found peace, or so I initially thought. Anorexia provides a focus, a set of rules to live by and remove anxieties. Anorexia becomes a religion. It feels like the right thing until it becomes so very wrong. You will never be enough for your eating disorder. So stop trying to be.
What I’ve realised during my recovery is that you do not have to accept your thoughts or feelings as the truth. Instead recognise them, accept them merely as thoughts and feelings, then decide to respond. You see anorexia is in fact taking away your control. Take control of your life back and realise you have the choice on how you will respond to these thoughts and feelings. I started at first by simply taking a moment just to notice the thoughts and feelings I was having daily.
“You’ve already eaten too much today. You still need to exercise. You don’t need to eat that. Don’t worry you can just purge it. Just get the binge and purge session over with. You’ve definitely gained weight. You shouldn’t have eaten that. You need to eat less tomorrow. Go for another run. Just have half of it. That was too much you better purge it. You look disgusting. You don’t deserve to eat. You should be stronger. Your pathetic. Why are you such a failure. You can’t even starve correctly. Your too fat to be sick.”
This was and sometimes still is my daily talk, the constant stream of thoughts of my mind that never seems to rest. It’s exhausting but it no longer wins. I started getting better the moment I stopped trying to change my thoughts. There is nothing wrong with my thoughts, they are simply my thoughts but what I can change is how I respond to them. I was so tried of being sick, of being in and out of hospital with feeding tubes and still never feeling thin enough. I no longer had any control of my eating or my life and would go from starving for days to endless binging/purging episodes that always ended in tears. No treatment method seemed to help and I had almost accepted that maybe I was just beyond saving, I just wasn’t ‘strong’ enough to get better, this was just me. I had tried all the treatment protocols and read all the books but there was no moment of enlightenment or mindset shift. Throughout my endless research for ‘the cure’ one commonality I found was this concept of noticing your thoughts or as some call it mindfulness. My use of mindfulness in recovery has been through learning how to recognise my thoughts and feelings then not respond to them.
Initially it was just recognising my urges to binge or restrict, even though I would still respond with my eating disorder behaviours it was just that introduction to noticing those feelings as separate thing from myself. Then it was being able to listen and observe the eating disorder monologue that so often ran through my head. With this practice of separating myself from these thoughts and feelings I was able to view them objectively. Soon recognising urges lead to prolonging the urge to binge or eating something small instead of nothing. I become more comfortable with just sitting and listening to the monologue of my mind screaming at me, demanding me to respond. I’m not going to lie, being in hospital during some of this time helped in this practice of recognising these strong feelings and not responding, instead learning how to just sit with them. I learnt over time how to sit with the uncomfortable and listen to the screaming until it faded out to simply whispers. Then one day I felt that all to familiar urge to binge, to just take advantage of being home alone, enjoy your last binge, just one last time it coaxed but instead of responding I just sat. I don’t know how long I sat there tears streaming down my eyes, legs hugged close, rocking back and forth but I didn’t move. I just listen to the thoughts, I felt the feelings and I didn’t respond, I didn’t binge. Slowly but surely the urge eventually subsided into silence. And I got to the end of that day exhausted but realised I hadn’t binged, I hadn’t listen to my thoughts or followed my feelings, I’d beaten my eating disorder just this once. It wasn’t easy in fact it was torturous but each new day I endured the thoughts without responding, until days turned into weeks and weeks into months.
After time I began to realise that by getting to actually choose how I wanted to respond to my thoughts and feelings I was actually gaining more control of my life than my eating disorder ever provided. Although some days my eating disorder felt easy, it even felt right I knew that choosing to react in an eating disorder way will only lead to two outcomes, hospital or a grave. Those are outcomes I’m not willing to sacrifice my life for and the possibilities it may hold. Choosing to eat that meal, finish that bite not purge that burger all lead to giving me a chance at recovery and at a future. Everyday day is a decision to recognise those thoughts and react accordingly in the right way not the eating disorder way. And sometimes I don’t win, sometimes it all gets too much and I skip a snack or run an extra kilometre, but at least I recognise that, I accept that and try not to let it happen again. They say practice makes perfect, which is wrong because there is no such thing as perfect. But practice can certainly make you stronger! Practicing recovery consistently everyday is what keeps you in recovery. And being in recovery means being alive and having the chance of a better future.
Start taking control of your eating disorder and stop letting it control you. Try these stepsto begin your own mindful recovery journey:
- Take notice of any thoughts and feelings you have during the day.
- Try to notice or analyse how you respond to these specific thoughts and feelings your having. Are you responding with an eating disorder behaviour?
- Once you have begun to recognise these thoughts and how you respond, start to ask why. Why do I respond like this? Do I have to respond like this? What am I achieving by responding like this? By asking why you are taking control of your thoughts!
- Practice prolonging your response to thoughts and feelings especially eating disorder related. You feel like binging, ok why do you feel like binging? What are you going to achieve by binging? What if you put off binging for another 10mins? What if you put it off for another hour? Learn how to sit with the feelings instead of reacting to them.
- Choose the right response. Take control of your thoughts and feelings and choose reactions that will help your recovery! You feel like binging, ok you feel like that because your bored. Instead your going to go for a walk or watch a movie and wait until the urge to pass, because it may take time but it will always pass.
Eventually the recovery response becomes your initial response rather than the eating disorder. The more you practice being mindful of your thoughts and feelings the more control you are providing yourself. You and only you has the control in deciding how you respond to a situation. Allow yourself the chance of a future in which you are in control by choosing recovery!! xx
Ps. If anyone is looking for support or just a friend please feel free to connect with me at any time! Just click the CONNECT link on my page.
Pss. Also if there are any particular topics, books absolutely anything you would like me to look into or write about please let me know!! I’d love any feedback or recommendations you may have.