“I recently fell into a relapse, and am trying with all my strength to pull myself out of the tailspin. I have begun eating again, but I can't help but feel the overwhelming feeling of failure every time I take a bite. I think about how ashamed I feel to be the size I am all day. I know that logically, the failure is in me NOT eating, rather than the other way around, but my disordered thinking won't let me be logical. How do I turn things around into being proud of myself for not restricting?”
I usually say “fake it ‘til you make it.” If you know that logically the right thing to do is eat and be proud of yourself, try to just do it without letting your mind make you do other things. If you begin to get down on yourself for eating, remind yourself that you are accomplishing SO much and that the more you eat, the better you will feel mentally and physically. Initially, the annoying things your head tells you are there, but the more you keep up with a routine of eating, the better you will be able to cope with that eating disorder voice.
You could start a rewards system for yourself to help associate feelings of pride with the right actions. For example, if you eat a meal, tell yourself you will get 15 minutes of downtime and pick something to do that you find enjoyable, fun, or relaxing. Or go bigger – if you eat 3 meals a day, reward yourself with something. If you do it for a week or more, allow yourself a gift. The rewards can be anything you want them to be – an hour surfing the internet instead of doing work, a new pair of shoes, etc. But if you set yourself to succeed and be kind to yourself after you’ve done so, you’ll be training your brain to understand what’s really worth it.
I’d also suggest my cell phone trick – if you haven’t heard me talk about it before, check it out here. You could use a message like, “Keep going – recovery is worth it” or something similar instead of what I suggest in that post. It might do the job nicely for some encouragement you don’t have to think about giving yourself.
“I am in recovery, and have been for a year. I am doing pretty well as far as not restricting. However, when I get stressed, I tend to lose my appetite. I know now to eat when I feel hungry, but what if I don't get hungry? I have also learned to not eat if I'm not hungry, so I can prevent binges. I don't ever intentionally not eat meals nowadays, but sometimes just realizing I haven't eaten that day can push me to think ‘Just a little more.’ and triggers me. How do I deal with loss of appetite?”
First – congrats on being in recovery for a year now. I think a lot of people tend to lose their appetites when they are stressed, myself included. Can you schedule time for your meals? I know it seems a bit like back-tracking to earlier in the recovery process, but it might help, especially if you’re stressed right now. That reminder to eat will help you to eat at times you know you should, whether you’re hungry or not. Set your cell phone to alarm at 8, noon, and 6 or whatever times work for you for meals – it can be like your “dinner bell” and remind you that you need to eat, even if you don’t feel hungry. Sometimes you have to go through the motions even if your heart isn’t in it, because unfortunately, if you don’t go through those motions, you might end up back in eating disorder land, even if it wasn’t your intention.
You don’t have to remember to set your alarms each day – do it now and set it to remind you daily. Then you can just focus on what you need to do and rest assured that, hungry or not, your phone will tell you when it’s time to eat.
As far as that triggering feeling when you do unintentionally skip a meal, you can try the tips from my response to the first question. Anything you can do to reinforce the positive stuff is always a step in the right direction.
You might find these old videos of mine helpful - they deal with the question: "Is it ever okay to overeat or skip meals in response to disturbing feelings? Normal eaters may reach for a candy bar when having a bad day, but they know eating is not a magical remedy for the downside of life. What distinguishes them from those with eating problems is that it is not a part of their everyday eating pattern. They dont beat themselves up, eat in secret, feel shame afterwards or swear to eat differently tomorrow. Their self-concept, self-esteem and general attitude have nothing to do with their behavior around food. Your (the viewers) work is to trust that youll gradually move towards eating more normally, and only rarely, eat or refuse food when youre upset (with absolutely no remorse!). The truth is it takes a lot of practice to sever the connection between feelings and feeding."
Is It Okay? Food & Feelings PART ONE
Is It Okay? Food & Feelings PART TWO
For those of you out there who are trying to figure out what being hungry really means and what good eating practices are, these videos of mine might help:
How to Eat When Hungry & Stop When Full PART ONE
How to Eat When Hungry & Stop When Full PART TWO
Like with the first question, if you can reward yourself in some small way for eating your meals, it will help you push through those times of lack of appetite. You have to push on through – especially when stress levels are high.