if you actively restrict or fast, i invite you to read this excerpt, but please do not abuse the "anti-binge" suggestions, turning them into "anti-eating" suggestions. i would feel really bad if i triggered or negatively influenced someone...
Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery by Lindsey Hall and Leigh Cohn
Chapter 7: Things to do instead of bingeing
Even though an eating disorder causes tremendous pain and suffering, giving it up is difficult. Anyone who has gone through it will agree. You will undoubtedly face challenges and even hardships along the way, but now matter how hard it seems, the rewards are there: time for friends, money for fun, energy to feel a full range of emotions, clarity to know your inner truth, more love!
Take a moment to think about why you want to stop your bulimia. As a matter of fact, take a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle. On the left side of the line, write "bulimia" and all of your reasons for wanting to keep it. On the right, list your reasons for wanting to give it up. Are you willing to trade? Maybe? On a scale of one to ten, how willing are you? Enough to start now, I hope.
At the same time, understand that you can't give up something if you don't have something else to put in it's place. What will you do instead of bulimia? This is important to think about because you need to be ready. Make some connections with other people who can support you. Get the books ready that you will read, the candles for your hot baths, new hiking shoes if nature is to be your teacher. Make your plan and gather the necessary "tools" that you will need to put something in place of your former rituals and habits.
Below are some suggestions for "things to do" which have helped thousands of others, and they can help you, too. There are three lists, each with a different purpose. WHen you are tempted to binge, pick an ideal from the "Immediate" list below, and do it! Use the "Short-term" list afterwards for planning how not to binge in the future, and the "Long-term" list for larger, lifestyle changes. Personalize these lists in any way, at any time, by adding your own ideas. After all, it's your recovery.
If you are committed to recovery, stopping yourself from bingeing and purging is imperative. Regardless of how you eventually address the underlying issues, you still must make a stand now. Make a copy of the "Immediate" list and put it on your refrigerator. When you are tempted to binge, select an item from the list instead. Also, there are many more ideas like these in the "Three-Week Program to Stop Bingeing" in Chapter Nine.
Immediate things to do instead of bingeing
- Postpone the binge for 15 minutes. Set your timer. That should give you enough time to choose another strategy.
- Brush you teeth; take a shower or bath.
- Soak binge food in water.
- Leave the environment that's tempting you to binge. Go to a park, library, or other "safe" place.
- Call a supportive friend either just to talk or to address your problem. Cultivate more friends who are sensitive, compassionate, and capable of uplifting you. Someone who has overcoming an eating disorder will be especially empathetic.
- In panic situations, relax with deep breathing. Take a deep breath for the count of ten, hold it for that long, exhale. Repeat this a few times, then think through your anxiety. What am I feeling? Can I handle what's going on? Am I safe?
- Get your mind on something else. Chew gum. Turn on the radio or television. Distract yourself from the cravings long enough to settle down.
- Let out your emotions in an aggressive way. Punch a boxing bag or scream into a pillow. Wrestle with a safe support person. Beat your bed with a tennis racket or baseball bat. Loud crying can be a great release.
- Take part in physical activity. Go for a walk, jog, swim, or bike ride. Hit golf balls or play tennis.
- Stop yourself and identify the real hunger. Where is it coming from? Throat? Stomach? Heart? Write down your most spontaneous answers. These identify the source of your legitimate wants and needs.
- Write in your journal or tape record your thoughts. Be intimate and honest. Look back at earlier entries to discover patterns and see progress. Address questions like, "What's the payoff to this binge?"
- List the foods you are fantasizing about, seal the paper in an envelope, and throw it away.
- Create and use panic cards with step-by-step instructions on what to do in different situations. Each card would include on strategy, like "Work in the garden: 1. Go to the nursery and buy seeds, starter plants, or soil amendment. 2. Return home and do planting. 3. Offer your gratitude and blessing to the garden. 4. Show off your work to a friend or neighbor." Come up with a deck of panic cards of your own, including some of the ideas from Chapter Five.
- For incentive, every day you don't binge or purge, mark your calendar with a big star or put money in a jar. When you reach certain goals -whether they're shorter or longer term- give yourself rewards.
- If you can, stop yourself in the middle of a binge. This may seem impossible, but those who have done it say it is a very powerful accomplishment. Try to breathe peace into your uncomfortably full body. Do whatever it takes to stop yourself from eating more or purging. Afterward, process your feelings in your journal or with a support person.
Short-term planning for not bingeing
- Make your own list of "Immediate" things to do instead of bingeing. As you discover which activities are successful, repeat them and add options of a similar vein.
- Incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Take a yoga class, meditate for 20 minutes every morning and night, or simply take "Quiet time" to be away from others and alone with your thoughts.
- Give yourself permission to eat what you crave, but do it with a capable support person who understands your goal is to increase self-awareness, not to binge. Spend time talking about your feelings or writing them down. Do not purge.
- Investigate your childhood. Everyone has deep issues related to their family and the environment in which they were raised. Our relationships with friends and teachers, the way we viewed media and culture, and so much more are also part of who we are today. Look through photo albums and memorabilia, ask questions of your parents, share notes with friends and siblings, and devote time to reflect. Uncover any causes for your bulimia that you can.
- Write a letter to a family member about your bulimia; however, you do not have to send the letter. Have the courage to say who you are and what you need. Write a series of letters to that person over an extended period of time. Be honest, assertive, and candid.
- Call or visit a "long lost" childhood friend whom you have thought over the years but haven't seen. Track them down. Catch up on each other's life. They will not judge you for your bulimia; they have their own unique stories to tell.
- Eat "normally" for one day using the guidelines in Chapter Six, and observe what you eat and how that feels. Could you get used to eating that way?
- Plan ahead and attend a cultural event, like a concert, art exhibit, or museum. Prior to going, study up on the subject. For example, if you are going to hear a symphony, listen to it beforehand and read up on the composer. These kinds of personally enriching activities can take place instead of bingeing.
- Make lists about your life: likes and dislikes, goals, priorities, accomplishments, things-to-do, people to call, etc. Lists are good for organizing your thoughts instead of letting them spin.
- Practice saying "No". Be assertive and express your needs, small or large. Set your own limits and boundaries. This may feel risky at first, but it gets easier as you get stronger. Always remember, you have a fundamental human right to your own opinions and decisions.
- Take a vacation. Get away from your usual routine, and decide not to binge and purge while away. Be a "new" you while you are gone, and think about ways to continue with that attitude when you return home. You may discover it worthwhile to make changes to your regular environment.
- Try visual imagery, which can help you later act out a situation in a positive way. Picture yourself doing something before you do it. For example, before dinner, mentally see yourself walking into the kitchen, preparing a healthy meal, eating it in a pleasant setting, and cleaning up afterward. Imagine that scenario as purely enjoyable. Then replicate it in reality.
- Begin to smile at others. Consider hugging! Remember that most people are a bit shy themselves. Something as small as a nod of the head or tip of a hat can connect you in a wonderful way.
Long-term things you can do to end bulimia
- Get involved in volunteer work. Offer to help out at a retirement center, school, environmental agency, animal shelter, or political office. By giving freely, your own goodness will radiate back to you.
- Practice love by taking care of pets. A dog or cat will provide unconditional acceptance, affection, and companionship. Staring at fish can be relaxing. People have all kinds of pets for all kinds of reasons.
- Learn something new: a foreign language, CPR, a musical instrument, an art medium, mechanics or electronics, or computer programs. Try out classes which emphasize self-reliance, assertiveness, or improved body image.
- Think about how to make more money instead of obsessing about food, and then follow through on your scheme. This can be a hobby, investment plan, or a new career.
- Read! Go to the library or local bookstore. Always have a book to read for pleasure (novel, biography, history, etc.).
- Use positive language. Try saying out loud that you are a nice person and deserve to live happily. Talk into a tape recorder. Repeat affirmations.
- Try not to be so perfect. Bulimics are often tidy about everything except their inner peace. Concentrate on the needs of your inner self. Don't be so finicky about housework or study so much. Stop wearing makeup to see how that feels.
- Begin to record your dreams on paper. Watch for patterns and subtle meanings. If it interests you, get a book on dream analysis.
- Experiment with your own interests!