For someone with bulimia, what does it mean to be ‘in recovery?’ Why does it seem like for every step forward, we take another one back? In the midst of a confusing, frustrating and scary recovery, it is difficult to remove yourself from the situation and look at things objectively.
However, after recovery I am able to easily recognize my own thoughts that held me back. Maybe by sharing those obstacles, you can overcome them more quickly than I did.
My struggle with bulimia lasted 6 years, and my eating disorder history dates back even longer. It took me a full year to recover, which seemed like eternity thanks to some false beliefs and fears.
As you may know, I am now a recovery coach here at Bulimia Help. My recovery inspires me every day to continue sharing the message that a lifelong recovery is possible and within your reach. In order to accomplish this, you have to let go of those thoughts and false beliefs that are holding you back.
So here they are: the 10 thoughts that held me back during recovery.
Wrong! In fact, bulimia helped me gain weight at times! Sure, I would fast for days and lose a little, but it always came back and then some. I could never know from week to week what size I would be and how my clothes would fit. Read this article from Coach Catherine on the subject, she found the same to be true: http://www.bulimiahelp.org/articles/how-bulimia-leads-weight-gain. By holding on to the false hope that bulimia helps regulate a healthy weight, we are hindering our recovery!
If that was true, I would have stopped a week or two in, not six years later. Bulimia is very addictive, both psychologically and physiologically. This study from Vanderbilt University explains how tryptophan and serotonin are released during the binge and purge cycle: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/bulimia.htm. In addition, the calorie restriction and over exercise in-between binges make the binge urges even worse, as reported in the BHM® research. I didn’t seek help sooner because I did not understand that I was addicted to bulimia.
Again, if this was true, I would have recovered right away. Once I realized that I was in big trouble, I was too afraid to seek help. I tried reading books, doing research and creating my own recovery plan. Unfortunately, this all lead to more failure and more feelings of hopelessness and despair. Nothing changed for me until I told someone I had a problem and sought some outside help.
The first person I told about my eating disorder was my sister, and she was not the least bit surprised. She said that the family had suspicions, but nobody knew how to handle it. So I guess that sneaking off after meals is noticeable, and people who care do pay attention when you are not doing well, even if they don’t know how to address it. Looking back, I’m sure that my close friends and coworkers also knew that I was in some sort of trouble.
There were so many times that I would make progress in recovery then resort to restriction, and binge again. The feeling of having food in my stomach terrified me, so I would just keep repeating the cycle out of fear of weight gain. Ironically, the bulimic cycle was actually causing weight gain, the very thing I feared! My recovery weight now is my set-point weight, right in the healthy range for someone my height. You can read more about set-point weight here: http://www.bulimiahelp.org/book/physical-effects-food-restriction/food-r....
If you lose friends because you gained weight, then you needed new friends anyway! When I list traits I most admire in someone, being thin isn’t even on the list. Why do I think everyone is so critical of my weight, when I’m not that critical of theirs? In retrospect, I did gain some weight in recovery that resulted from binging but not purging for a phase.
That weight came off once the binges were gone and the result: I didn’t lose any friends, my life didn’t change and I didn’t even look all that different. Yes, I can see the extra weight in photos from that time, but I embrace the changes I’ve experienced and realize that there is so much more to who I am besides my size or weight.
My therapist did not specialize in eating disorders. I was her first bulimic client. She was able to help my self-esteem issues, but that wasn’t why I was binging.
Unfortunately, she left me with the impression that once I recover, I must always ‘keep my guard up’ and avoid relapse. Many people in the mental health community hold a belief that people with eating disorders have them for life, they are just able to control the behaviors in recovery. According to the BHM®, that notion is far from the truth.
There are many people who have FULLY recovered and no longer suffer at all- myself included! Here’s a link to some real recovery stories, using the Bulimia Help Method: http://www.bulimiahelp.org/story/real-people-real-recovery. Once the urge to binge is gone, you no longer have bulimia.
Having bulimia made me feel like such an outsider. All that sneaking around and buying binge food, stashing it somewhere, sneaking away to the bathroom- I even stole my roommate’s food!
The feeling of isolation bulimia causes can make you feel different or weird, but in reality, 25% of college aged women in the US report using purging as a method of weight reduction. 25% is a lot of women, and these are just the ones who reported it on a survey! If the Bulimia Help Community can teach you anything, it’s that you aren’t alone, and many others suffer too.
At the end of a long day of work and school, I just wanted to go home and be alone, binge, purge and go to bed. Sure, this was an emotional and physical release, which made me feel better in the moment, but what kind of life is that? Is that what I look forward to? Once I was out of the habit and relapsed, I remembered just how absolutely awful it was, and wondered why the hell I ever thought this was soothing! This goes back to the fact that it is addictive, and we have to break the habit. Once you recover, you can’t imagine finding comfort in a binge.
This was a big hang-up for me. I resisted structured eating, even though I saw others having success with it. I felt that it was too much food and eating that often would make me fat. In reality, structured eating gave my body confidence that there would be plenty of food and binging is not necessary.
My binge urges went away very quickly once I really committed to structured eating. Here’s some helpful info on how to begin structured eating: http://www.bulimiahelp.org/book/info/creating-meal-plan. The reality is this: without structured eating, it is nearly impossible to move into intuitive eating, which is the ultimate goal!
Don’t let these 10 false thoughts slow your recovery like they did mine. I am thankful every day for being recovered, but it would have gone a lot smoother for me if I hadn’t held those false beliefs. Lifelong recovery is within your reach, so don’t let anything hold you back!
If you need some extra support, you may consider our coaching program. More information is available here: http://www.coaching.bulimiahelp.org/
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The information provided in this website is for information purposes only. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Please refer to the full disclaimer and copyright. If you do think you might suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to your General Practitioner, as there are many physical complications that can arise from being at an unhealthily low weight or from losing weight very quickly, or from purging. We advise you to seek professional help with working on an eating disorder.
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