7 Strategies to manage eating disorder:
- Maintain a commitment to change – acknowledge your eating disorder voice
The most important and initial step to managing eating disorder is to recognize that overtime you have developed an Eating Disorder Voice that is separate from your normal healthy voice. We have between 50 to 70 thousand automatic thoughts per day. They are called automatic because they are not in our control and just pop up. Dr. Daniel Amen of Amen clinic, call these negative thoughts, Automatic Negative Thoughts or ANTs. For someone with eating disorder, their ANTs take the form of ED voice with common theme of eating habits, food, and body image. By acknowledge the negative and harmful nature of eating disorder voice, you can work toward separating your healthy voice and eating disorder voice and know what to listen to.
- Understand triggers and consequences that lead to eating disorder behavior-
Recognize and pin down specific triggers that may be involved in your eating disorder behavior and specific consequences that may follow those behaviors. Triggers refer to events that occur before responses (thoughts, feelings or behavior. Consequences refer to events occurring after responses. Triggers can be social, situational, physiological-nutritional or mental. Consequences can be social, situational, feelings, thoughts and physiological- nutritional. One important way to change eating habits is to take control of the triggers by breaking up the relationship between triggers and your eating disorder behavior. This can be done by 1) rearranging the triggers and 2) changing your responses to those triggers.
- Understand thoughts, feelings and behavior connection
Different people react differently to same situation. The difference in reaction is related to the difference in their thoughts and perceptions about the situation. Your eating disorder voice (aka negative thoughts) created a number of thoughts regarding your body, food and yourself that are associated with problematic eating behaviors such as “I need to diet to look pretty”, “I’ll get fat if I eat these cookies”. In order to break the cycle of unhealthy responses to ED voice, you need to examine the accuracy of every thoughts. Changing inaccurate unusual thoughts leads to change in feelings and behavior.
- Restructure your thoughts
There are 4 simple steps in restructuring negative thoughts: step 1)Identify the triggers and the thoughts 2) evaluate your thoughts (evidence for and evidence against). Challenge problematic thoughts by questioning them and challenging problematic thoughts by testing them. 3) Change your thoughts Step 4) Determine the effects of your revised thoughts
- Manage your impulses
Self-control is a learned behavior. People who are impulsive can learn to be more in control of their behavior. Strategies for self-control:
a. Avoid challenging situations that encourage greater impulsiveness
b. Delay your response by building in a pause
c. Self-talk: talk yourself into staying calm and resisting your immediate impulse
d. Reduce your distress or arousal by deep breathing, turning away from the situation and counting backward from 20 and bringing to mind a calming or distracting image.
e. Engage in alternative activities
- Changing your thinking about body image –
Acceptance of your body is a one-day-at-a-time process. You may be aware that on one day you feel fat and unattractive, whereas the next day you feel more comfortable with your appearance, even though your body has not actually changed. These shift in your body image relate to the things you are saying to yourself. Identifying and changing your negative thoughts about your body are essential in improving your feelings about your appearance.
- Stress Management and problem solving – Here are general guidelines to manage stress:
a. Develop regular healthy habits – eat and exercise regularly, sleep sufficiently, incorporate pleasurable activities in your life and avoid excess alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.
b. Organize yourself – set priorities, structure your time and set realistic goals.
c. Establish relationships
d. Control your environment – shield yourself from stressors when necessary.
e. Manage your thoughts and feelings and behavior – learn about your negative thoughts pattern and/or see a therapist to help you deal with athematic negative thoughts.
To schedule an appointment with one of our eating disorder specialists please call 424-362-5965