Eating Disorders Treatment and Recovery
This is my third episode in my series on eating disorders and what I hope to achieve is to let you know you cannot give up now. There’s a way out. I mean you can recover and you will recover.
The inner voices of anorexia and bulimia whisper that you’ll never be happy until you lose weight, that your worth is measured by how you look. But the truth is that happiness and self-esteem come from loving yourself for who you truly are and that’s only possible with recovery. Whatever your age or gender, it may seem like there’s no escape from your eating disorder, but it’s within your reach. With treatment, support, and these self-help strategies, you can overcome your eating disorder and gain true self-confidence.
The Road To RECOVERY
Because it is a biopsychosocial behaviour, it has to be tackled using a biopsychosocial model.
The biopsychosocial model (abbreviated “BPS”) is a general model or approach stating that biological, psychological (which entails thoughts, emotions, and behaviors), and social (socio-economical, socio-environmental, and cultural) factors, all play a significant role in human functioning in the context of disease or illness. It posits that, health is best understood in terms of a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors rather than purely in biological terms.
The road to eating disorder recovery starts with admitting you have a health condition. This admission can be tough, especially if you’re still clinging to the belief even in the back of your mind that weight loss is the key to happiness, confidence, and success. Even when you finally understand this isn’t true, old habits are still hard to break.
True recovery from anorexia and bulimia involves learning to:
- Listen to your body.
- Listen to your feelings.
- Trust yourself.
- Accept yourself.
- Love yourself.
Enjoy life again. It is important to practice the above listed points as they deal with your psychological state.
Eating disorder treatment step #1: Ask for help
It can be scary and embarrassing to seek help for an eating disorder but gaining support from a trusted friend, family member, religious leader, school counselor, or work colleague is for many people the first step on the road to recovery. Alternately, some people find it less threatening to confide in a treatment specialist, such as an eating disorder counselor or nutritionist.
It is important that we talk to someone about this condition and it is as well important that we have in mind the kind of questions we want to ask. Here are some questions to ask;
- When did you begin having different thoughts about food, weight, or exercise? What were the thoughts?
- When did the different behaviors start? What was the behavior and did you hope to accomplish something specific (lose weight, gain control of something, get someone’s attention)?
- Have you noticed any physical health effects (fatigue, loss of hair, digestive problems, loss of menstrual cycle, heart palpitations, etc.)? Or any emotional effects?
- How are you presently feeling; physically? Emotionally? Do you feel ready to stop the disordered eating behaviors?
- How can the people in your life best support you? Do you want them to monitor your behavior?
- Do you want them to ask you how you are doing with your recovery or would you rather tell them?
Eating disorder treatment step 2: Address health problems
Anorexia and bulimia can be deadly—and not just if you’re drastically underweight. Your health may be in danger, even if you only occasionally fast, binge, or purge, so it’s important to get a full medical evaluation. If the evaluation reveals health problems, they should take top treatment priority. Nothing is more important than your physical well-being. If you’re suffering from any life-threatening problem, you may need to be hospitalized in order to keep you safe.
- Eating disorder treatment step 3 : Make a long-term treatment plan
- Once your health problems are under control, you and your doctor or therapist can work on a long-term recovery plan. First, you’ll need to assemble a complete eating disorder treatment team. Your team might include a family doctor, a psychologist, a nutritionist, a social worker, and a psychiatrist. Then you and your team will develop a treatment plan that’s individualized to meet your needs.An effective treatment program for eating disorders should address more than just your symptoms and destructive eating habits. It should also address the root causes of the problem—the emotional triggers that lead to disordered eating and your difficulty coping with stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, and other uncomfortable emotions.
Here is a story about Gina who recovered from bulimia.
Gina battled bulimia for seven years—struggling on her own in secret—before she finally opened up to her mother. Gina wrote her a long letter explaining her shame and embarrassment, and gave her mother a book about how to deal with someone with an eating disorder. Her mother was so relieved that Gina had finally opened up, and together they sought professional help.
Gina’s road to recovery was still rocky and she had plenty of slip-ups, but she also had the support of her family. Gina chose to use relationships to replace her bulimia. She saw a therapist and joined a support group of fellow eating disorder sufferers. In time, she went back to graduate school, got married and had children. Like everyone else, she still had difficult experiences in life. Her mother developed cancer and Gina lost her job. But she no longer used her eating disorder to cope.
- Coping with anorexia and bulimia: Emotional Do and Don’t listsDo…
- allow yourself to be vulnerable with people you trust
- fully experience every emotion
- be open and accepting of all your emotions
- use people to comfort you when you feel bad, instead of focusing on food
- let your emotions come and go as they please without fear
- pretend you don’t feel anything when you do
- let people shame or humiliate you for having or expressing feelings
- avoid feelings because they make you uncomfortable
- worry about your feelings making you fall apart
- focus on food when you’re experiencing a painful emotion
Adapted from: The Food and Feelings Workbook, by Karin R. Koenig, Gurze Books
I shall stop here but before I drop then, Did you learn anything from Gina’s story? Do you think you can overcome as well? click here to read how Demi Lovato was able to deal with hers.
Can there be a relapse?
- Do you wish to speak to a medic? email me
Also published on Medium.