In recovery you have to focus on the emotional and behavioral pieces of your disorder. You can't ignore either, as they go hand in hand to form the disorder. If you've never been to a professional before it may seem to be a difficult thing to do independently, but it's actually pretty simple.

My best advise is to write. Letting emotions flow freely is something EDed people don't tend to be familiar with. Try it, knowing you're the only one who will be reading it. You can try ED forums (click here for links) but while they can be wonderfully supportive they can also be triggering [if you want to try going to a forum I know that the mods at thinpages (and maybe others) will restrict you from certain areas by request if you feel that you may be seriously triggered]. Write your feelings and thoughts about your disorder, about today, about tomorrow, about the future. Write letters that will never be sent to your disorder, to your family, friends, enemies, whoever you have burning things to say to. Once you can be honest with yourself about your emotions and feelings you can start to express them through mediums like talking or writing to people other than yourself. But no rush ;-) - I don't advise putting off writing about things that cause anxiety or other topics that are uncomfortable, but some people can push themselves slowly and steadily better than being pressured to hurry by a therapist... e.g. I used to have therapy sessions where my mom would come for the second half...a number of times the therapist would lead our conversations into places I wasn't comfortable going, pushing me to tell my mom things that she didn't really need to know. There are pros and cons to this, because my mom would never have told me some of the things she did, but mostly it just added more stress without making too much progress in our relationship.

If you're just starting off and haven't drawn connections between your emotional state and your eating behavior, that's probably the first thing you should do. This means continue eating how you have been, basically keeping a journal of what you eat, including the time you ate it and how you were feeling. When I first did this I was incredibly ashamed, but I was honest; don't bother writing it down if you're not going to be honest or change your behavior as soon as you start tracking this - the point isn't to feel good or prove that you're normal. The point is that you've admitted you're disordered and you need to track exactly what's bringing about that behavior. It was never real to me until it was in black and white, when I felt like justifying every bite of food on that paper. But, it did help me to track patterns down. After just a week I could see where my weaknesses were, what times of day and what emotions brought me to binge or restrict.

Once you can identify the connections between things that are happening in your life, your emotional reactions to them and your disordered behavioral reactions, you can start to change the behavior part. You won't be able to change your sensitivity to emotional events. You have to acknowledge that you're reacting instead of denying your emotions and covering them with food/hunger. When you find yourself wanting to binge/purge, try writing, or going on a walk, or doing anything to hold off and give you a while to think. This is what therapists will call finding a positive coping skill, as opposed to the negative ways of coping through eating, cutting, drugs, etc. It may be helpful to write a list of positive coping skills, or things that will catch you on your way to the kitchen when all your body wants to do is binge. I used to end up in the kitchen thinking, "yeah, this is emotional eating, but fuck it, why not?" and if only I'd had something written that I'd see on my way out to remind me - oh shit, I really am recovering for a good reason, I could have prevented yet another binge.

Check out my list of resources - books in bold are highly recommended as 'guides' for recovery.


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