Alternative Bulimia Coping Mechanisms
New Ways to Deal With Stress and Emotions
Bulimia is not really about food at all.
Instead, food is a means of coping with life.
Compulsive overeating is a means of coping with (or avoiding) underlying, emotional difficulties.
Choosing an eating disorder recovery program means choosing new coping mechanisms to face life’s challenges.
Problems Are a Part of Life
Rather than wish for your problems to go away, it’s important you get better at dealing with them. Recovery does not mean living without problems. Even if you overcome bulimia you are going to experience upsets, breakdowns and heartbreaks. The key is to not want your problems to go away, but instead to grow bigger than any problems.
Life is a classroom and we’re all here to learn lessons along the way. If you can accept that problems will arise and come to find new ways of dealing with your problems instead you’ll be happier in the long run.
Notice Your Triggers
Your reality is unique to you. We each have our own set of circumstances, history, families, friends, and environmental impacts that affect us differently. One of the things to become aware of is what triggers you to binge. You may already know what sets off a binge and it’s great if you do. If you don’t I’d recommend you make a point to become aware of it the next time (and the next time because you may have different triggers).
To become aware of your triggers, start by working backwards the next time you have a binge episode to find out what lead up to it. Maybe you stayed out late with a friend last night instead of preparing for a big meeting, went to bed late, woke up tired and dashed off to your meeting knowing you hadn’t fully prepared. You were tired and felt anxious in the meeting because your boss could tell you weren’t on your game. You came home from work deflated, feeling worthless and guilty for not preparing better so you binged and purged.
If you work backwards from the binging you can see how your decision to go out with your friend instead of preparing for your meeting started the entire series of events. Your trigger was the anxiety and guilt you felt about the exam, but the decision you made the previous day to go out instead of studying was where everything started.
Choose Your Thoughts
We are a product of the thoughts we think. It’s possible to change your thoughts in an instant. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. The next time you find yourself talking mean or negatively towards yourself stop and replace those thoughts with affirmative, positive statements. This will take practice, but the more you practice the better you’ll begin to feel.
The next time you’re facing a tough situation notice:
- What do you tell yourself?
- What is your emotional response?
- Physically what do you do?
- If you feel afraid or worried in the moment, consider what you’d feel instead if your fear is just made up?
A favorite saying I repeat to myself when I’m facing something that’s really got me worked up is, “This too shall pass”. Attitude is everything. Just having a positive thought like this can make a difference in your attitude towards the situation and your response to it.
One of the most important parts of dealing with tough situations is to create new coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms help us handle the emotions and feelings we experience because of situations or events in our lives.
If you choose food as your coping mechanism, you’ll often just feel worse because food does not actually make you feel better permanently. Ok, for a short while you can “check out” during a binge and feel better about yourself. Yet, you’re only escaping the feelings rather than moving them through. Once you really get that coping with uncomfortable feelings and finding ways to move the feelings through your body is the only way to live a recovered life, you can have a different relationship with your problems.
Make Healthy Decisions
New coping mechanisms will serve you in the instant you feel like binging, but a healthier way of living and supporting yourself during recovery is to watch the decisions (or choices) you make. Choosing in an instant to do things, especially early on in recovery, that empower you and keep you healthy and avoid triggers and tough situations will serve you well.
In the example earlier, what if you had chosen not to go out the night before your big meeting but instead had prepared for a few hours, gone to bed early, reviewed your notes over a healthy breakfast and arrived early at the office so you felt grounded and prepared? The outcome of the meeting would have be very different and your feelings about yourself would be vastly different, too. You would come away feeling satisfied with your performance (mental), your body would feel good because you were rested (physical) and your spirit would be whole because you had taken good care of yourself (emotional/spiritual).
It is your moments of decision that can make a great difference each moment in the situations we manifest in our lives. Start looking for coping mechanisms to help you through tough times instead of binging, but also look to make healthy choices that will support the whole YOU.
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Alternative Bulimia Coping Mechanisms
Bulimia may have you believing you’re in complete control. I’m going to guess that if you’re reading this you already realize that the disorder is robbing you of your power and you feel out of control. Your relationship with food may be at the point where it is an obsession and getting fat dominates you day-to-day life. If that’s true for you then you probably also have a lot of emotional issues – deep down painful stuff – that remains unresolved.
Life can be challenging, but the real test is how we choose to react to situations. We all want our anxieties to simply disappear. It doesn’t feel good when we have to face fears, confront people who are taking advantage of us or assert our will to be sure we don’t get overwhelmed at work or at home.
In fact, we just want to be happy and at peace. However, life happens and it isn’t always positive. We’re either boldly facing our fears, obsessions, and compulsions or we’re engulfed by our addiction and living in silent shame.
The path to a calmer, happier life actually involves learning to endure some discomfort. To acknowledge and face our fears. I teach that we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. What I mean is it’s only when we’re feeling our feelings and moving through them will we ever get out from behind our addiction and be with people in the world.
Life is a classroom or an opportunity to grow and you’re learning lessons every day. Look at the things that make you uncomfortable as an opportunity to learn – about your self and other people – and grow from every experience. The discomfort will then be a signal that you’re about to grow, not be something to be afraid of.
I now say when I start to feel anxious, upset, stressed or angry…
I’m growing…bring on the growth!
Adopt New Coping Mechanisms
Here are a few ideas for new coping mechanisms:
Get Back to Nature – wherever you live you likely have access to some form of nature whether it be a park, a beach, a stream or just a pretty skyline view with blue skies and big clouds. Use nature to help calm you down the next time you’re upset.
Practice Meditation– regular mediation practice is said to create an overall sense of peace and harmony in our body, mind and spirit. If you’re not meditating each day, maybe try meditation when you find yourself upset as a way to calm you down and relax.
Enjoy Music or Art – listening to calming music can help to change the energy inside you when you come home from a hard day. Or, if you’re an artist, practice your craft when you find yourself emotional instead of turning to food to feel good.
Write it Out – journaling is an excellent way to express those feelings and share openly and honestly about what’s happened. Journaling every day is a wonderful routine to get into, but even if you just journal instead of binge and purge, you’ll begin the healing process.
Call a Friend – talking to friends has an incredible way of helping us see things in a new way and calm down. Whatever you do don’t call a friend to commiserate causing you to feel down about things. Call a friend for a pick me up chat – one who won’t let you complain about your life, but always seems to make you feel better afterwards.
Now You Choose
Pick one or two coping mechanisms to utilize in your life instead of binging and purging and begin to practice them each day. And become aware of the choices you’re making and how they will impact your life so you can avoid trigger situations.