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By On January 16th, 2018

5 Tips for overcoming the urge to restrict while recovering from anorexia

Even when you’ve started your path to recovery, people with anorexia live with an urge that hangs around anytime food is present – the voice constantly calculating calories and telling you what is “safe” or “unsafe” to eat.

It can seem like these urges are inescapable or overwhelming, but learning to control these impulses and thoughts is an essential part of developing a healthy relationship with food and your body.

Thankfully, you don’t have to learn to cope and overcome the urges to restrict on your own like a Zen monk or Jedi. There are many strategies that eating disorder treatment plans can help you utilize to make this aspect of recovery easier to accomplish and make your path to health a little smoother.

Eating disorder specialist Jennifer Rollin recently shared a few of these strategies and tips on the Huffington Post for what to do when the urge to restrict rises while you’re still recovering from anorexia.

Identify the “eating disorder thoughts”

Many eating disorder specialists will often tell clients to start looking for the differences between the “eating disorder self” and the “healthy self.” The idea is to pinpoint when unhelpful thoughts arise, so you can more proactively understand when urges are unhealthy. This also allows you to begin working towards coping or managing these thoughts.

Rollin suggests considering what you would tell a friend or a younger child if they said the same things your thoughts are telling you. For example, how would you respond if a niece said something like, “I can’t eat this pizza because it will make me gain weight.”

Remember where restricting leads

Giving in to the urges can seem tempting, especially when doing so could make you feel “in control” in stressful environments. But, it is important to remember that every time you restrict food, it will be harder to resist the urge in the future.

Learning to eat foods that scare you and ignore the eating disorder thoughts is a bit like exercise. It will be difficult and intimidating at first, but over time it will become easier and start to feel natural. On the other hand, conceding to the eating disorder thoughts only feeds the unhealthy side of yourself.

No food is “good” or “bad”

Many people with anorexia start to categorize low-calorie or “healthy” food as “good”, while sweets or “unhealthy” foods get deemed as “bad.” However, that’s not how food actually works. All foods can fit into a healthy diet and eating too much of even the “healthiest” foods like kale can still make you sick.

A well-rounded diet includes room for all types of food, including the occasional snack or treat.  As Rollin says, though, “what’s truly unhealthy is experiencing anxiety and guilt around food, as this can spike your cortisol levels.”

Don’t hesitate to ask for support

Friends and family are an undeniably important source of support and encouragement for recovery. It really can’t be understated how much the support you can receive from those that care about you can help. However, it is important for you to take the step to reach out and ask for help from those who support you when you’re struggling with urges to restrict.

If you feel like your family or friends can’t provide the support you need, you can also seek the help of your treatment team. Rollin says that even if they can’t provide an immediate response or care, “the act of reaching out can bring your ‘healthy self’ to the forefront.”

Never forget, recovery is always possible

Whether you’re just starting recovery or trying to recover from a recent relapse, achieving recovery can sometimes feel like an unreachable goal. However, recovery is always within reach. It takes time, support, and commitment to your health, but recovery is always possible.

If you or someone you love are living with an eating disorder, give Brookhaven a call at (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and help you find the best treatment plan for you. 

One Response

  1. Joy Butler says:

    A good friend of mine was diagnosed with an eating disorder. She tends to vomit every time she will be eating and it’s really hard for her to control it. You have mentioned that identifying the eating disorder thoughts can help the patient as to what he or she really feels. I’ve just shared this tips with her and am hoping this will help.

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