Urges to use eating disorder behaviors are a combination of cognitive, physical and emotional sensations which can feel strong, confusing and overwhelming. The following steps will help you make different choices, rewire the brain and move forward in recovery.
STEP ONE: NAME IT
State precisely what it is you are experiencing.
Say out loud: “I’m aware that I’m having the thought…”
That I need to lose weight
That I must exercise
That I shouldn’t eat
That it would feel good to binge
Say out loud: “I’m aware that I’m having the sensation of …”
A pit in my stomach
Tightness in my jaw, neck…
An adrenaline rush
Say out loud: “I’m aware that I’m having the feeling of…”
STEP TWO: FRAME IT
These strong sensations signify that your brain and body are responding to triggers in your environment and beliefs about yourself.
Remind yourself, “Just because I’m having these sensations doesn’t mean that I have to act on the urges. I have choices.”
STEP THREE: EXPLORE IT
These urges represent an attempt to meet a real, legitimate need in your life.
It can help to name the need behind the urges. Begin by identifying the need you are trying to meet through the eating disorder behavior.
I need to feel safe or in control
I need to feel accomplished or valuable
I want to escape/numb out
I need to feel comfort or pleasure
STEP FOUR: SEE RECOVERY
Visualize how you can act as you find healthy ways to meet your needs.
See yourself acting in accord with recovery and your long-term goals. Rather than imagining yourself using eating disorder behaviors, picture yourself living a life of recovery.
I see myself choosing to reach out to people rather than bingeing
I see myself working on a project that I enjoy
I see myself being present with people rather than thinking about calories
I see myself using my voice to state my needs
I see myself learning to accept that I can’t be perfect
If negative thoughts come to mind (such as “I don’t deserve recovery” or “I can’t do this”) do your best to let those thoughts go and write them down to discuss later with your treatment team and support system.
STEP FIVE: REFOCUS
If the urges are still strong, focus your attention on something that requires concentration. This is more than distraction. Immerse your mind as fully as possible into something other than the behavior. This focus, along with abstaining from the behavior, actually rewires the brain in healthy ways.
Deep breathing or yoga exercises
Games that require strategy
Listen intently to music
Learn a new, challenging skill
Talk with a friend and practice good listening
Solve a challenging puzzle
Read/watch a mystery