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When I was looking for bulimia treatment, I could see 3 options...
The fact that I was lost in shame and self loathing cut out option 1...
Going to a bulimia treatment center would mean sharing my secret with family and friends. I was not ready to do this and the thought made me feel like I had snakes churning in my stomach. I knew a good treatment center could speed up my recovery - but for me, at the time, I just couldn't do it.
Well, I'd been trying that one for years. Every single day I'd wake up saying "Today I will not binge and purge" and despite wanting this so badly, but 9 am I'd be bingeing on cereal, milk and toast. Fighting bulimia alone, in my own head, didn't seem to be working.
And so that left option 3...
Visit a bulimia therapist or counselor. For so many years, this option had also been out of the question... But I'd grown desperate. I felt like bulimia was close to killing me - I had to get help. With my heart pounding in my chest, I emailed the counselor at my university. Writing those words felt strange and alien - I had never admitted it to anybody in my life - "I am bulimic".
I didn't know it at the time, but opening up and sharing my secret, was one of the key steps I took to bulimia recovery. It helped me to release some of the shame I had been carrying for so long. It helped me to see that despite needing help for bulimia, I was still worthy of love.
And as my time passed in recovery, my life began to shine. I'd sit in the sunshine, listening to the birds. I'd smile at strangers in the street. I had warm feelings of love - for my life and for myself.
And for a few years after that, I wanted nothing to do with bulimia. I didn't talk about it, read about - I hardly even thought about it. I dived into life and was living!
But then came a time, many years ago now, that I was ready to share my bulimia treatment experiences. I wanted to help others, through what I had learnt... And so I started this website: your-bulimia-recovery.com
I didn't know where it would lead me, or how it would pan out... But what I didn't expect was how helping other women in recovery would open my eyes, so clearly, to the exact steps I took to recovery and joy.
I thought I knew how I recovered - and I did to a point - but there were elements of my recovery which happened gradually without me actively practicing them. I now know that if I had practiced these things consciously and made a point of doing them each day - my recovery would have been quicker. Smoother.
For example, I knew that a key step in my recovery had been allowing myself to eat. Planning my meals and practicing structured eating... But, I hadn't understood the important role that self kindness had played in my recovery...
Self kindness was something that happened slowly - but automatically - over the months of my recovery. Possibly thanks to the kind influence of my counselor, I am not sure. If I had been consciously aware of the importance of self kindness, I could have made an effort to practice it each day. To separate myself from cruel words - and to replace them with kindness.
But it doesn't matter that it was upon reflection that I saw how to make recovery easier... What matters is that I have grown to see so clearly the 3 key elements of bulimia nervosa treatment - and that I can teach them to you...
So precious soul, when you are deciding on bulimia treatment... Make sure that it includes these 3 elements - I know that just as they lead me to recovery - they will lead you there too.
I always thought that recovery had to start with a diet. I had to eat under X calories per day - otherwise I'd get fat... and I thought that was something which I could not handle. I wanted recovery, but almost equally, I wanted to be slim.
What I didn't realize is that dieting is almost always the pre-cursor for the development of bulimia. Before you developed bulimia, there's a good chance that you went on a diet - or strongly desired to go on a diet. Restricting your food sends biological messages to your brain which makes it feel threatened... It makes it believe that there is a famine. The biological response to this is food cravings and urges to eat, eat, eat!
It's no surprise that over 95% of diets fail... Dieting goes against everything that is natural and healthy for human beings!
So it makes sense that if dieting is part of the cause of bulimia - then it can't be part of the solution. Recovery can not start with a diet - it has to start with allowing yourself to eat. Now I know how scary this can be in the beginning - and so an easier starting point is to begin with structured eating: 3 meals and 3 snacks a day, spaced 3 hours apart. Just remember the guideline of 3-3-3!
Structured eating will not make you fat. You may gain some 'water weight' in the beginning - but your body will strive for balance: It wants to be healthy, slim and energetic.
If any bulimia treatment program that you are considering includes structured eating, then it's looking hopeful.
All my failed recovery attempts began with a fair serving of self abuse. "You better not fail this time, Shaye"...
And that self abuse would be sitting on my shoulder waiting for me to make a mistake...
When I did slip up and eat a little more than planned, that nasty little voice on my shoulder would jump right in... "You've messed up now, you're pathetic, you may as well binge like the *** you are and start again tomorrow."
I always thought that I needed self cruelty to bring me in line. To whip me into shape. To motivate my recovery...
Oh my poor soul. It was hurting so badly. I had it so wrong...
Cruelty can never heal. It only ever makes you sink.
How could I move forward when I continued to beat myself to the ground?
Only love heals... And only love can motivate and inspire recovery. Possibly the most essential part of healing from bulimia is developing a kind attitude towards yourself...
Gently let go of those cruel voices and replace them with kindness. Say to yourself only what you would say to a good friend, or young child. Uplift yourself, love yourself, celebrate yourself... And watch yourself recover.
The treatment of bulimia must include self kindness practices. Love can heal all wounds.
At first, self kindness can feel scary - or even cheesy... But practice it daily, hourly, in each moment - and you will recover from bulimia.
It's thanks to the magical 'plasticity' of our brains that we are able to completely - 100% - recover from bulimia...
Plasticity means changeable, flexible, mouldable...
When talking about the plasticity of our brains, it means that the neural pathways that control our habits can be re-wired...
You can re-wire bulimic habits into habits of normal eating. You can re-wire habits of self cruelty into habits of self kindness. And by doing this, you can, once again, discover a life of peace, freedom and love.
So how exactly do you re-wire the brain? The answer is: By practicing the new habit. If you continually practice structured eating and self kindness, in time, they will become easy and natural...
And as time passes, structured eating will naturally follow through to intuitive eating. You'll re-connect with your body and intuitively know what foods it's calling for. Intuitive eating will be wired into the pathways of your brain.
To develop new neural pathway habits, you'll need to persistently practice structured eating and self kindness over a period of time (this is different for everybody). If you slip up, forgive yourself with love and hop back on board.
So when looking for a bulimia treatment option - make sure that you can continue it for a long enough period of time for it's practices to become habits. Remind yourself that habits build over time and grow easier and easier... Recovery may seem hard in the beginning, but with each week that passes, it will get easier.
Aim for progress, not perfection. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will develop new and healthy habits.
So to summarize recovery...
Practice structured eating and self kindness until they become your natural habit.
What happens when you practice these things is a complex shifting and changing of beliefs and habits within your mind. A shift away from bulimia - towards the magnificent life that you deserve.
The life that I live now - and the life that you can live too.
You might say that I am bias with these 3 steps to recovery... They are after all, key elements of my online recovery program (You can learn more about my program here)... But I am bias because I know they work. I have seen then work for me - and I have seen them work for countless other women.
They will work for you too :)
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Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of your-bulimia-recovery.com
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community