Are you being run by that crazy voice in your head? You know the one.…
Break Free from Bulimia: 5 Steps for Lasting Change
Feeling frustrated [with yourself] and want to create a lasting change in your life?
Here’s inspiration for sharing the steps to lasting change…
As I’m writing this I’ve just returned from volunteering for 5 days in Los Angeles at Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within (#tonyrobbinsUPW) workshop. A four-day intensive that helps people breakthrough their old limiting beliefs, regain that inner confidence and certainty that they can be, do or have whatever they want in their life.
As I was preparing for this trip and on the drive back and forth to LA I began re-listening to his program called Creating Lasting Change. I’m in the process of developing a video program that will launch later this year to help people with binge eating habits overcome what’s blocked them so they can have a breakthrough to lasting change (i.e. be binge free or bulimia free).
I’m a huge fan of Tony’s work and his material on creating lasting change is great content to incorporate into my program. I’m inspired by what I saw last week during UPW and want to spread some of his ideas, sprinkled with my own flair, here on how to create a lasting change in any area of your life. For the purposes of this article I’m going to speak specifically some times to people with eating disorders, but these steps can be applied to anything including smoking, eating, drinking, drugs or any compulsive habit you feel you haven’t been able to break free from.
Changing Old Patterns, Habits or Addictions – The Foundation
Before I dive into the five steps to creating lasting change in any area of your life I want to lay a quick foundation for my eating disorder readers, but a lot of this applies universally so you may want to review just to be sure you’re checking off all the areas of self-care that you can.
If you’re restricting food or over exercising, it’s important you understand that your mind and body need essential nutrients from healthy foods to best support you during this process. I strongly encourage you to suspend your belief that you’ll get fat if you eat normally just for the duration of this process. Under eating, eating junk foods and treating your body like a garbage can isn’t going to adequately support the brain functioning you need to make lasting changes in your life.
My request to you is that you first commit to these guidelines:
- Eat three moderate and balanced meals (healthy fats, proteins and carbs) for the next 30 days. Eat healthy snacks when you get hungry. Don’t restrict or be trying to diet or lose weight right now. That’s counter productive to this work and will be distracting and could take you out.
- Drink 8 glasses of water a day. Tea is ok, but try to avoid caffeine as much as possible and no sugary drinks. Yes, many fruit shakes and healthy-looking drinks have tons of sugar so read labels and avoid beverages with lots of grams of sugar. No diet sodas – period.
- Avoid foods advertised as “low fat”. Low fat foods are commonly compensated for with other ingredients and your body needs healthy fats, so breakthrough the brainwashing and start eating healthy fat foods again.
- Get 20-30 minutes of movement a day. Can be calm or aggressive movement, but be moving your body to get your heart rate slightly elevated such as you would during a brisk walk.
- Breath deeply whenever you can remember to.
- Get plenty of sleep. This is a unique number for every person, but on average you will want to be sleeping between 7-8 hours a night. Just do it, ok.
- Cut back on decision making including small things – decision making and rest are two of the biggest drains on willpower.
- Take short naps whenever possible to keep your energy and emotional state in a centered place.
These are just some of the basic ways you can support yourself best while you’re working on yourself to create lasting changes. These are part of my personal guidelines for extreme self care and taking great care of yourself during a period of personal development is essential. If you’re not loving and caring for your whole self, things can break down. This creates the foundation for the work you’re about to begin on yourself. Don’t skimp here. Go all in or come back to do the work when you’re on track with your self-care routines.
5 Steps to Creating Lasting Change in Your Life
Step 1: Know Where You Are
I often call this step “Get Real”, but I also like the analogy of a road trip. If you pull out a map and want to go to New York, you need to know where you’re starting in order to know if you should go north, south, east or west.
In this step, you need to spend some time reflecting on where you really are. I mean…really are.
Much of the time in addictions and bad habits we spend lying to ourselves about how we are or how bad things really are. It’s time to get real about things.
If you want to make a real change in your life, you’ve got to own up to what you’re doing to yourself and those around you. Here are some questions to help you get clear on where you are and be honest with yourself:
- Describe your current nutritional habits and philosophies around food (or your chosen addiction).
- Describe your three most common [binge] trigger moments and the following ritual/patterns (how things play out once you’re triggered).Where are you? What are you doing? Who’s there? What’s being said? How are you feeling? What do you tell yourself in that moment? Etc
- What is your earliest memory of noticing your weight/size (or whatever issue you’re dealing with)? What happened? Who was there? What was said? What did you tell yourself at the time?
- What does being fat mean to you today? If overeating isn’t your challenge, what is the biggest fear you have and what’s the story you tell yourself about it?
- If you were completely honest with yourself, how do your habit patterns serve you? What’s this really about for you?
These questions are meant to get you thinking and feeling. Perhaps in ways you haven’t thought or felt before. This is about realizing the brainwashing you’ve been telling yourself over the years that’s held this pattern in place.
If you’ve been honest, like really honest, you’re probably having a holy shit moment. You’re a smart person and you’re realizing that all this business is your doing. You’re the one truly causing all this suffering to go on…and you’re the only one who has the power to change it.
Both the curse AND the blessing. You’re coming to realize in one honest sit down with yourself that this thing really is all in your control. That’s the good news. Relish in knowing you are where you are and that with complete and utter honesty, you now know the truth of what you’re doing.
Self-awareness is key. Self-care and self-love must go hand in hand as you move forward. So, be mindful of how you take care of yourself through these next few steps, but don’t back down. Incredible honesty is important, and so are courage and commitment.
Heres’s a video to get you started on your process
Step 2 – Get Leverage
I’m borrowing the title for this step (leverage) from Tony Robbins. On the coattail of getting real and knowing where you are, you need to now go a little deeper.
You see, you’re in the situation you’re in because you’ve convinced yourself that where you’re at is better than your alternatives. Overeating when you’re stressed or bored is a better alternative in your mind than feeling the discomfort of stress or boredom. You’d rather do what you’re doing to yourself than face the unknown if you were to live without this behavior.
You see, some time long ago when you were developing your survival or coping skills as a young person something happened that caused you to seek out this behavior. You got a payoff or reward from overeating/purging and the brain linked up that this was a good alternative than the pain or expected pain of your alternatives.
Habits are created when the brain links up a behavior to avoid pain or go towards pleasure (more often to avoid pain). For a lot of my coaching clients, and my personal bulimic behavior, was driven by the desire to avoid the pain of those uncomfortable feelings like stress, anxiety, fear, worry, doubt, frustration, or boredom just to name a few.
Well, in this step it’s time to face the music and allow yourself to feel your feelings. You’re not going to necessarily experience all of the feelings you haven’t wanted to face, but the discomfort of continuing to do this thing you’re doing. To get connected to the suffering you’re already experiencing by not changing.
In order to overcome those powerful neuro-associations your brain has created that link your habits to seeming pleasure, you’ve got to link massive pain to continuing to do what you’ve been doing. Otherwise, the brain will go the easy route and continue to fire those patterns whenever you’re triggered.
When I work with people 1:1 in coaching I’m able to take them through a guided visualization process that really goes deep into accessing the suffering, the pain, the discomfort they’re experiencing and turn up the pressure on it so it becomes really unbearable. This forces the brain to find another, less painful route to help you survive.
To help you get leverage and begin to put the brain into a state of really experiencing the suffering that this pattern is truly causing you, sit quietly and answer the following questions:
- If you were to stand outside of yourself, looking at your behaviors in this area of your life over the years and now, why are you really doing this?
- What’s living this way cost you so far? List all of the costs or things you’ve lost or given up to keep this behavior going over the years.
- What will it cost you in the future if you keep/start doing it again? What could you lose, who would not be in your life or what would you miss out on if you keep this up (start up again)?
It’s important you not only think about the answers, but imagine the experiences and let the feelings really sink in. Allow those uncomfortable feelings to sink down into your body, your nervous system, and truly connect with what you’ve been avoiding.
You want to get through this, you’ve got to go through this.
“The only way out is through.”
One final thought on leverage. If you create enough pain and leverage, you can change any behavior. Without leverage, this is why you’ve fallen off the wagon in the past. Really go all-in during this process and give it all you’ve got. If you want the change, you’ve got to be willing to go super deep to feel the pain at a greater level than you’ve ever allowed yourself in the past. The brain HAS to link up the pain so severely that it MUST change.
Step 3 – Create a Compelling Future
My sincere hope if you’ve made it this far is that you’re not just reading this over, but are actually taking the time to work this process. It works on you and through you if you’ll work it and give it all you’ve got.
Now that you’ve gone this far, you’re probably in a pretty yucky place. But you won’t be for long.
You’ve done the hard part – getting real with yourself about the current state of life you’re creating and then went on to get some leverage. You truly felt the suffering states you’ve been living in and the costs involved both in the past and into your future if you keep this crap up.
So stop it!
Well, ok. I know just saying “cut that stuff out!” isn’t going to get you to do it because if it could, you would have done it already.
I’m excited to tell you if you’ve truly given steps 1 and 2 your all and will now complete the rest of the steps you CAN truly create a breakthrough in your life. A lasting change that will take you to where you most want to go.
So in this step of creating a compelling future it’s all about envisioning the best possible outcome for your new life. Again, if you were a coaching client I’d walk you through a guided visualization to develop your new vision. In lieu of that, here are questions to get you going in that direction. Take these on from a quiet, reflective place or even do your own visualization process at home once you’ve read the questions.
- What is life about? What’s most important to you – in yourself and the world around you?
- Where do you see yourself after you’ve broken free from this habit?
- What does life on your terms look like?
- Who is now in your life? Who is no longer in your life?
- What are you able to do or enjoy that you haven’t been able to before?
- What are the best feelings that you experience most often because you’ve set yourself free?
- What’s the best part of changing your life? What are you most proud of or excited about?
It’s important if you answer or visualize these questions that you do it from a place of them having already happened. So when you imagine yourself living and feeling the feelings of your new life, do so as if you’re already there. You’ve broken free – how does life feel now? Imagine in done and you’re in it…now.
Step 4 – Interrupt Your Patterns
Great, you’ve done the work to understand where you are, got leverage by feeling the pain and suffering you’re creating, and you now have a freakin compelling vision calling you forward in your life.
All of this work is laying the foundation for what’s ahead. Where the rubber meets the road you might say.
These next two steps are all about creating new memories for the brain to pull from and pathways for it to go down when you get triggered in the future.
You see, your life isn’t going to suddenly and magically change. Meaning, you won’t all of a sudden not have stress or frustration or boredom. Hardly. These things will show up at some point. Your inner work will definitely serve to create a ripple effect of change in your life, however you’ve got to be real and know that you don’t magically wake up and poof you never want to do that thing again. Well, it can happen, but for most of you we’re going to reinforce the change in two ways.
In this step it’s all about interrupting the old pathways the brain goes down that leads it to the old pattern of behavior (your addiction/habit loop) that it has so conveniently installed years ago.
Interrupting your brain’s old neuro pathways is done by either working with someone like me in the moment to break you out of your hypnosis or helping through visualization to scramble the memories and old patterns the brain has linked up.
Here’s the next video about this to help you through the next part of your process
Step 5 – Condition the New State or Pattern
You are freakin rocking this! If you’ve made it this far I want you to take a moment to acknowledge yourself for the work you’re doing. Yes, stop reading for a moment and say to yourself “I freakin’ rock!” If that’s too bold, go for “I am doing great work on myself and I know this will benefit me now and long into the future. I’m worth it.”
Cool. You are worth it and you are creating lasting change so kudos to you!!
Now, ready for the last step? Fan-tas-tic.
Here goes (apologies for calling it step 6 – there are only 5 steps! lol)
The final step to this process to creating a breakthrough to lasting change in your life is conditioning. Conditioning your mind and body for the new pattern. In brain science they know that habit loops need to be replaced, not removed.
You’ve interrupted your old pattern and the brain is now seeking a new pathway. Time to install a new pattern for it to follow that will create the change you want in your life.
For example, let’s say your old habit loop looked like you went running for tubs of ice cream or chocolate when you’d be stressed after a long day of work (ok, maybe that’s just my old pattern, but I’m sure there are a few of you out there who can totally relate).
My old pattern was that I would work hard at work all day, answering angry customer calls, taking the brunt of criticism from my boss, rushing around trying to complete way too much work in way too little time only to have this wave or mountain of stress and pressure build up inside me. By mid-day the pressure was so powerful I would decide in my mind “ok, I’m going to totally hit the grocery store on the way home and buy a ton of food and eat it all the way home.”
Just saying that thought to myself, envisioning that future after a super stressful day of work made me feel a lot better in the moments leading up to it. My trigger was the stacking of the stress all throughout my day. My pattern was to decide to binge eat, hit the store and eat everything on my commute home and purge when I walked in the door. I might do it a few more times that night, but for years I did that almost every day of my life.
Gosh, reliving that right now just makes me so sad for the young woman I was then and what I put myself through. No words to express how these feelings of sorrow about the many years of bad things I did to myself took their toll on my joy, my happiness and my body.
Wait, where was I? Oh, yes. Conditioning. Whew…got a little side tracked by the wave of emotions of remembering all that nastiness I used to do.
Conditioning. Yes. Let’s move ahead shall we?
In the previous step you worked with your imagination to break up your old patterns and in this step you’ll use that same beautiful imagination of yours to condition a new pattern.
If I were coaching myself given the story I just shared with you about how I went about my days in the peak of my bulimia, I would tell myself to work each day to visualize a new outcome.
For example, there are many alternative pathways I could follow to relieve the stress in a healthier way. Let’s say I chose to condition walking or breathing into my new pattern. So, here’s what I’d do.
All of these steps are important to create a breakthrough to lasting change. To set you free of those old addictions, habit loops and compulsive behaviors that are holding you back from living a life you love.
I’ve suggested all of these steps because I believe they all serve a purpose and worked in succession will lead to lasting change.
On a final note I want to talk about desire and commitment. Without first a burning desire for change, making a decision to do it and the work to get there and a commitment to never give up you’ll fall off the tracks. For me, after 20 years of yo-yo eating disorder behaviors where I would and I wouldn’t and I would and I wouldn’t I finally found my way to lasting change because of a fateful moment when I made a lasting decision, backed with a burning desire and a commitment to never go back. That moment was in 2005 and I’ve had lasting recovery from bulimia ever since.
I know it’s possible because if I can do it, you can do it. I’ll link to a few final videos you may want to check out that I made about making the decision and believing in possibility. These two areas of transformation really made the lasting difference for me.
I say with all my heart that I know this can work for anyone with any condition. It is possible if you’re willing to go through it to do it. There is no going around. You must go through to get to the other side.
From someone standing on the other side, I invite you through your tunnel now. I invite you to step into your pain that you’ve been avoiding and go through some minimal discomfort in order to come out the other side a new person. A person who can be with anyone, can face anything in their life and can be, do or have whatever they want for themselves.
It is possible. I’m living proof it can be done.
Will you join me on the other side? If so, share a comment below or email me privately to let me know how this process has changed your life. I read every email and reply to them personally, so I’d love to hear from you…soon.
With love and light,