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There's no doubt that overcoming bulimia is a challenging (but possible) journey... I remember wishing I could flick a switch and be done with it... But unfortunately, that not how deeply engrained habits change...
They change with time and persistence.
They change by practicing your new habits (which feel unnatural at first!) until they become your natural way of living...
In the case of overcoming bulimia, this means practicing normal eating and self kindness until they become your automatic response.
And while these new habits are forming, a few handy tips can go a long way in overcoming those binge urges...
One of those handy tips is the HALT technique...
I heard of this technique just the other day from one of the wonderful members of the online recovery program I run. Below I'll expand on this technique and explain how it can help you in overcoming bulimia.
Here's how it goes...
It's time to HALT and take extra care when you notice any of the following feelings or emotions:
When you feel hungry, angry, lonely or tired, check in with yourself. Stop for a moment and sit down, if you can. Take a deep breath.
If you are hungry:
Remind yourself that you are allowed food and that your body will thank you for feeding it. Nourishing your body is a key part of bulimia recovery and essential in reducing your binge urges. So sit for a few moments and plan what meal/snack you are going to eat. Write it down as your commitment to that food.
Once you have prepared or purchased your meal or snack, find somewhere peaceful to sit and eat it. Eat slowly and with consciousness. Chew each bit at least 20-30 times - count if it helps. Enjoy all the tastes and textures.
Visualize the food healing and repairing your recovering body.
When you have finished your food, sit for a few moments and thank yourself and the universe for this meal. Remind yourself that eating and digesting your food will help you heal - It will help you discover freedom. Then distract yourself into the days other joys - be that work (yes with a positive mind, work can be joyful!), hobbies, healthy exercise, socializing, etc.
If you are angry:
Sit with yourself. Make it a priority to go through these emotions with yourself. Take a deep breath - and another - and one more. Ask yourself what you are feeling - talk to yourself. Open your mind to the idea that anger is normally a more vulnerable emotion dressed up in armour...
For example, the other day I felt angry at my sister for turning down my holiday invitation. I started saying unkind things about her in my mind. I was blaming her for being disorganized.... Then I checked in with myself - and I discovered that I was not angry at all: I was hurt. I felt sad because I had been looking forward to spending time with her and I felt as though the feelings weren't mutual. I felt rejected. I felt like there was something wrong with me. When I realized the truth behind my feelings, I could let them go - reminding myself "I am enough, exactly as I am." My beautiful sister may not have wanted to come away on that holiday - but we were both still lovable and magnificent.
So listen to your anger - allow it to be a guide. What's it trying to tell you? Are you hurting? Are you feeling abandoned? Are you feeling lost? When you allow the true feeling to surface, you can talk to yourself about it. Honesty is at the core of all good relationships - including the relationship with ourselves :)
If you are lonely:
Remind yourself that overcoming bulimia is often accompanied by feelings of loneliness. They will pass. I had them too. They exist because for so long binging and purging was your companion, your friend, your lover. When nobody was there - bulimia was. As the years went by, you (as I did too) chose bulimia over relationships and so the relationship with bulimia grew and developed and deepened... While others withered.
But now is a time to celebrate... You have seen that bulimia is not a relationship that adds joy to your life! You have begun choosing other relationships over bulimia - and this is a beautiful thing. It will take time - and practice - but the wheels of change have started to turn.
It is natural though, that in the transition phase there will be feelings of loneliness. I sometimes call this "The gaping hole left by bulimia". It's important to see this hole not as a hindrance - but as an opportunity! There is this space in your life and you have the ability to fill it with beautiful things and magnificent relationships...
When you notice you are feeling lonely, take extra care of yourself... Ask yourself which relationship you would like to deepen today... The relationship with yourself, or with another? Once you have made a decision: Go for it... Ring that person up, visit that friend, talk to yourself lovingly...
Take positive steps towards deepening the relationships that add joy to your life.
If you are tired:
Allow yourself to rest! I remember feeling like there was something wrong with sitting still and doing nothing. Rest felt impossible... But that is what I needed! I was uncomfortable with 'free time' and any free time I had, I had to fill with something... Normally binge eating and purging.
Part of recovering from bulimia was allowing myself to rest... And it will be the same for you precious soul. Your body needs and deserves rest. Just think what it's been through over the months and years with bulimia... It's been to hell and back. It needs some down time to heal.
When you feel tired, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it's okay to rest. The world will not stop if you stop for a while. Sit down, have a cup of tea, go for an afternoon snooze, get an early night... Your body will thank you for it and it will help you in this journey of overcoming bulimia.
There is never a better moment than now to start overcoming bulimia! This doesn't mean that as of today you'll never binge and purge again... There may be many slips along the way. But as long as you move forward with self love, kindness and forgiveness - you will get there.
You deserve a life of freedom. And this world wants you back. You are precious. You have meaning. You make a difference.
Thank you Casey from The Online Bulimia Recovery Program for inspiring this article on the H-A-L-T technique for overcoming bulimia :)
Lots of Love,
Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of your-bulimia-recovery.com
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community