Have you ever found yourself obsessing over what other people are eating or constantly comparing your food intake to others?
Perhaps you’ve witnessed friends skipping meals and felt the urge to also restrict your food intake? Or maybe you’ve attended a work event where everyone else “overindulged” at lunch, causing you to want to follow suit?
Research shows that you're more likely to be influenced by the food choices of others when you have low self-esteem, and let’s face it, bulimia nervosa comes hand in hand with low-self-esteem, so there is no real surprise here.
When I first started recovery I would always find myself asking questions like, “Why do I have to eat breakfast when they don’t have to?” or “Why am I expected to eat 3 meals AND 3 snacks every day when most of the people I know don’t even eat half that amount of food?”
Before I knew it my inner dialogue started to resemble that of a small (and highly irritating) child. I‘m pretty sure the words “it’s not fair” also featured few hundred times a day back then too.
There is a great little recovery tip that advises you to look to see how “normal people” eat, in order to get a better understanding of things like food portions and serving sizes, and in theory I think this is a brilliant idea. In fact I’ve passed on this little piece of advice many times before.
But finding those “normal people” is a challenge in itself because we live in a diet obsessed world, where people have really lost touch with what it means to be healthy.
Many of the people around us may not have eating disorders but that doesn’t mean they’re not demonstrating patterns of disordered eating.
So by comparing your eating habits to those around you, you can start to convince yourself that it’s okay to skip lunch, or that no one really eats breakfast anyway – and it is this kind of distorted logic that endangers recovery.
What the other people around you are eating has nothing to do with what is best for you to eat, especially while you’re recovering from bulimia!
Again I find myself wishing I could share some kind of magic button – “press this button once and you’ll no longer feel the urge to compare your eating habits with others” the instructions would read.
Unfortunately as Bulimia Help taught me very early on, there are no quick fixes in recovery, but these suggestions could help:
1. Give yourself a big reality check and remember that it really doesn’t matter what anyone else is eating, it only matters what you are eating. These people are not in recovery but you are, you need to respect that regular eating is essential to your future happiness.
2. Learn to let go of jealousy and when you are feeling envious of people who engage in unhealthy eating patterns try to remind yourself of how truly awful it used to feel when you would restrict your food, or when you would binge eat. You may even start to feel sorry for the people you once envied (I know I did!)
3. Increase awareness of your own behaviours by working out your food comparison triggers. Are you more likely to compare your food when you’re around certain people or in specific situations?
5. Prepare to be Persistent because change takes time, but it is always worth the fight.
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