The power of positive affirmations in bulimia recovery

Catherine Liberty's picture

Today I’d like to talk to you about the power of using positive affirmations in recovery.  In truth, this is a topic I have been excited to write about for a very long time because it is something that helped me immensely in recovery – much to my own surprise. It's also something that I feel can be implemented into recovery regardless of the type of bulimia treatment we're using. 


What is a positive affirmation?

Positive affirmations are short, positive statements that you can use each day in order to target a specific set of beliefs. 

In recovery we may choose to use positive affirmations to target our misguided and negative beliefs relating to things like food, weight, body-image and self-worth. It's important to understand that positive affirmations are not intended to be used to block out negative thoughts - nor should we use them to suppress unwanted thoughts. Instead we can use them to gently guide our thoughts and to gradually retrain out natural thought processes.  

I must admit, when I first heard about “the power” of positive affirmations I was sceptical. In fact, I found it laughable that just by telling myself I was strong, or courageous, or recovering that I would magically start to believe those things. 

But that was before I discovered how effective reprograming our “go-to” thought processes can be. For me it turned out to be an integral part of recovery, which is why I am so passionate about sharing what I have learned about positive affirmations with you today. 


What are "go-to" thought processes?

When I say “go-to” thought processes, what I really mean is the thought process that we automatically engage with in certain situations. 

For example, if you negatively judge yourself every time you look in the mirror then your brain starts to associate looking in the mirror with negative, self-loathing thoughts. 

So just by looking in the mirror you can automatically trigger your negative go-to thoughts. 

Using positive affirmations in recovery can be an effective strategy that helps you to re-write these go-to thoughts. 

You were not born thinking negatively about yourself, it is a learned behaviour and no matter how ingrained this learned behaviour may be, it can be changed.


While the idea of positive affirmations may be a little strange, we actually use affirmations all of the time… 

Every thought we think and every word we say is an affirmation in its own way. All of that inner dialogue, the things we say about ourselves and the judgements we make all affirm the things we believe.  

So if you say, “I will never recover from bulimia” – well that’s an affirmation. When you say it enough times it becomes a belief, and it becomes your go-to thought every time recovery is on your mind. 

On the flip side, if you were to say, “I am recovering from bulimia” the same applies. Say it enough times and it becomes a belief, it becomes your new, healthier and more positive go-to thought. 


Of course you might have to fake it until you make it initially

When I first started to use positive affirmations I felt completely silly. I would tell myself things like “I accept my body” or “I trust in the process of recovery” or “today I chose to make recovery-focused decisions” and I would laugh. I felt ridiculous, because I didn’t believe a word I was saying. 

But for positive affirmations to become ingrained into our subconscious thoughts we have to practice them; we have to say things we might not necessarily believe at first in order to create the changes that we desire; ultimately we have to fake it, until we make it.


Changing thought processes takes time

It’s much easier for our subconscious minds to hold onto that previous set of beliefs, so you can’t expect change to happen overnight. 

But with perseverance your subconscious is able to re-examine those previously destructive core beliefs, and replace them with a set of new, positive and logical beliefs. 

Many research studies suggest that positive affirmations can significantly assist you in the recovery process and support the idea that affirmations actually reprogram your thought patterns, changing the way you think and feel.


Do positive affirmations work for everyone?

While you’ll find countless success stories from people who have transformed their lives using positive affirmations there is no way to know if they will work for you unless you give them a try. We are all on unique journeys and even though our destination is the same, getting there is such an individual experience.

I couldn’t say for sure if using positive affirmations will benefit you and I've met some people here at Bulimia Help who didn't find them very effective, but you’ll never know unless you give it a try.  


Creating your own positive affirmations

  • Here are some points to consider if you decide to try out positive affirmations:

  • The more passionate and emotional you are when you recite your affirmation the more effective they may be in creating change. 

  • Positive affirmations work on the basis of conviction and consistency

  • Words that suggest that you might fail (e.g. might/try/probably) should never, ever appear in your affirmation statements.

  • Affirmations work best when they are positive and in the present tense.

  • Repeating affirmations on a daily basis helps your subconscious mind to accept them as reality


In need of some affirmation inspiration?

If you’re not quite sure where to start then I would suggest you check out the blog post “50 positive affirmations” at A Voice in Recovery

A voice in recovery is one of my all time favourite recovery blogs and is dedicated to advocating awareness about eating disorders, body image struggles, mental health issues, substance abuse and self-harm while giving those in recovery a chance to have their voices heard. 


One final thought:

I’d love to hear about your own experiences with using positive affirmation in recovery. If you’re a member of Bulimia Help why not leave a comment below and share your knowledge, tips and insights with fellow members in recovery. 



BethG13's picture
Thank you for this article! I

Thank you for this article! I read it a few days ago, along with the other affirmations post, and copied some which resonated with me most onto notecards. I posted a few on my bathroom mirror, fridge, and front door. I feel foolish repeating them out loud, but I guess just saying them once a day in my head isn't doing any good. I don't really believe them and even seem slightly corny, BUT I know in time they can bring about new truths and become self-fulfilling.

Beth G

Catherine Liberty
Catherine Liberty's picture
Hi Beth! That's great news,

Hi Beth!

That's great news, I'm so glad you decided to try out some of the techniques. Again I completely understand what you mean about it feeling corny, I used to feel so stupid repeating my affirmations but I really do think that over time they made a big difference.

You'll have to let me know how you get on! I think sticking them on the mirror, fridge and front door are great ideas too.

Take Care,

Catherine x

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