Trigger warning: This post discusses sensitive issues around eating disorders and mental health.
Following my eating disorder diagnosis last year, I found it difficult to access the treatment needed to start my bulimia recovery.
There is currently a 2 year waiting list for NHS eating disorder treatment in my area. I originally planned to pay for private treatment but that unfortunately fell through not long after I wrote this post.
Luckily, I am now due to receive treatment as being pregnant means I am considered high priority. But until now I have been trying to manage this thing on my own for the past year.
In this post I discuss everything I did to start bulimia recovery while waiting for professional help. Much of this was based on advice from my previous therapist and the book, Overcoming Binge Eating by Christopher Fairburn.
It’s important to say I am neither a doctor nor a psychologist. These are simply self help measures I took to help myself.
You should always seek professional medical advice if you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder.
Reduced Exposure to Unhealthy Views on Weight and Dieting
Certain disordered eating behaviours are normalised in today’s society. Not the more extreme aspects of eating disorders, but certainly heavy restricting and intense exercise for the purposes of weight loss.
Like many others, I was a fully subscribed member of that viewpoint for years. Tried every diet going, exercised beyond reasonable levels and incessantly talked and thought about weight.
In challenging those thinking patterns I tried to limit my exposure to them. I made an effort to remove myself from conversations around weight and diet that I encountered both online and in real life.
I unfollowed anyone on social media promoting any kind of strong negative views on weight and diet. Instead I filled my feed with body positive activists – people who promote inclusivity, self love and body respect for people of all sizes.
Read Overcoming Binge Eating by Christopher Fairburn
Christopher Fairburn was instrumental in developing CBT-E which is used to treat eating disorders. His book is considered an authority on the subject.
I read this to help with the binge eating side of my disorder, which is an element of bulimia. It is helpful in explaining how and why eating disorders develop and outlines a self-help programme to help combat binge eating.
Sought Help for Depression
Eating disorders often exist alongside other mental health conditions. In my case, depression.
The eating disorder is the root cause of my depression but the depression also exacerbates the eating disorder.
My therapist was unable to help in my bulimia recovery as she did not have the specialist training. However, she did help me develop methods of coping with depression and improving my mental health. When my mental health is good I am less likely to spiral into low self esteem and disordered eating patterns.
Started Working on Self Esteem and Self Love
As part of my treatment for depression, my therapist worked with me to develop a compassionate voice with which to talk to myself. It’s not always easy and I am a long way from being free from low self esteem but I am regularly challenging myself to turn negative self talk into positive.
I also try to avoid excessive ‘body checking’ and obsessing over my appearance. I would eventually like to look in a mirror and love myself but I’m not quite there yet.
Tried to Change My Eating Behaviours
In the absence of any professional help I tried to change my eating behaviours myself. I won’t go into detail on this, because it can be triggering for some people and my actions could be completely wrong. Certainly a few of the things I tried actually resulted in a worsening of my eating disorder.
It goes without saying that if you have an eating disorder then, where possible, you should seek professional medical advice when looking to address your eating behaviours.
However, one thing I have found helpful and was the suggested eating plan in Christopher Fairburn’s book, Overcoming Binge Eating. In it, he recommends establishing regular eating patterns with three set meals and three planned snacks a day. That structure helps ensure I am eating enough and makes me less likely to engage in disordered behaviours.
I am also making an effort to change my attitudes around food. To view it as nourishment and take enjoyment in the preparation to help me feel more satisfied and less likely to binge. I am working on practising more self care and developing healthier methods of coping with my feelings that do not involve food.
Bought Clothes That Fit Me
As part of my bulimia recovery, I stopped dieting and started to heal my relationship with food. That meant I inevitably gained weight and so it follows that my clothes became tighter.
My usual response would be to diet and change my body to fit the clothes but I knew that would plunge me straight back to where I began.
Instead I simply bought bigger clothes. I now try to go for clothes that feel comfortable but also look good and make me feel confident on days when I need a serious pick-me-up.
So there we have it. All the things I have tried so far in my battle against my eating disorder. But I want to stress again that you should always seek to access professional treatment for an eating disorder where at all possible.