Recovering from an eating disorder or disordered eating is really hard work. Unlike with addictions there is no abstinence model, and we have to learn how to eat properly and nurture our bodies despite how difficult this can seem. There are many things that can get in the way of our recovery including our relationships, work, money, major life events etc. and not all triggers are negative. In fact sometimes it is moments of genuine happiness that can cause us to slip into behaviors that we know are not healthy (for example, weddings, getting that great new job etc.).
One of the most helpful gifts you can give yourself if you are struggling is to be self-reflective. It is important to acknowledge the barriers that get in the way of recovery or trigger you because if you can’t see or predict them, then they have control over you instead of you over them. This does not mean that you won’t still be triggered but rather that you can be prepared for your set backs and take the necessary steps to set yourself up for success before, during and after. A client of mine recently told me that she knew this big trip she was going on was going to be both really rewarding, and also an easy opportunity to skip meals. She really wants to focus on recovery and wants travelling to be a way that she takes care of herself, not a way she neglects herself. As such, she has decided to do daily check ins with different support people in her life while away. She has also created a mantra of sorts to deal with the uncomfortable feelings she know will arise both before and after her meals. Her goals for herself are manageable not unattainable, and she has challenged herself to make this a trip she feels proud of. We did a lot of talking about what success looks like for her, as well as how to recenter herself if she slips up. This type of preplanning is making her feel prepared for her trip and she feels she has removed the blinders she often puts on by just “hoping for the best” (without planning on how to make it successful).
In recovery, it is really important to take some time to really think about which things impact you, when and where you are most exposed to such activities and what you feel you really need in order to move through it successfully. Once you are clear, set up an action plan of how you will respond in these situations and write it down on paper. Post this somewhere where you can easily access it -perhaps you keep it on your phone, or on your bedside table. In your time of need, when you are finding yourself struggling to keep your eating disorder at bay, take a moment to reflect on what you wrote and use it to soothe and protect yourself.
The more prepared you are for these events the more you can go out of your way to prevent them and to nurture yourself when they happen.
What are some of your biggest triggers? What do you think will soothe you in these moments? Write a comment below and let me know!