Self care wards off an eating disorder crash
The beginning of a new year is often a time of hope for the end of eating disorder symptoms. You want to start the new year fresh. Without considering needed self care you promise yourself that you won’t binge or purge or restrict in this bright new year. This will be your new beginning. Without regular self care to back up your promises to yourself you are in danger of a crash.
Stress can trigger anxiety. Anxiety can trigger a binge or period of restricting. An eating disorder gives you an immediate action with an immediate consequence. When you step into recovery, patience and enduring commitment are necessary. Living with an active eating disorder is different from living within recovery mode. You learn to tolerate your discomfort. This is new. This requires a self care practice you can rely on.
The Blush of the NewYear Fades
In the first few weeks of the new year you discover promises don't insure instant Fast changes for the better
are rare. The reality of our world is more powerful than the wish for quick fantasy fulfillment.
The pandemic is still roaring. Political polarization still grips the people in this country, including family and neighbors. Our environment is suffering. Crime is up. Stock market is coming down. Inflation is on the rise.
And you are still who you are, with the power you have within your own being. Please know, that’s a good thing.
Reality is Still Here
The best way to deal with reality is to be the best you can be. In Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear learns to his dismay, that his supersonic space hero powers are fantasies. They do not work in reality. But his heart, health, determination, caring and belief in himself are not fantasies. They are what's real and see him through his challenges. Nurturing your inner strengths through self care keeps you strong and allows you to grow sronger.
Power, love, safety, confidence, and opportunity do not emerge because you have an eating disorder. Health and relying on the reality of you brings you confidence and power. Sharing that reality with others creates the basics for a rich and fulfilling life.
The turn of a page on a calendar can bring a new appreciation for what you need now. Supporting yourself through self care means supporting the best within you. This is what frees you to develop beyond your present limits and move toward the life you want.
Wishes and hopes
- the beginning of a new and true love.
- be recognized as the quality person you are
- welcome peace and opportunity in your life.
When your wishes and hopes don't come true as the New Year begins, your disappointment can be intense. That disappointment can bring on a state of depression where you have low energy and just want to cry alone with your best friends – your eating disorder and massive self-criticisms.
Your big and vital task is to wait
Please, hold out. You might be hung over from too much of everything over the holiday. You might be exhausted from activity and tension. You might be frightened because of the sudden transition from holiday to quiet regular life. Maybe you are experiencing all three.
Self care means giving yourself a chance
Give yourself a chance to adapt to the shifts your mind, heart, body and emotions need to make after the holidays. Fantasies are falling. Real life is returning. Let yourself be real in this real life.
The following self care guidelines are not a cure for bulimia or anorexia or binge eating. They are a way to catch hold of some health and stability. Then you can take the steps necessary for solid recovery.
Five important guidelines that help and that all of us may tend to forget:
1. Don't get too hungry.
2. Don't get too thirsty.
3. Don't get too tired. Hunger, dehydration, and fatigue will play havoc with your emotions, your ability to think and your ability to perceive realistically.
4. Give yourself a few days of eating three healthy meals a day, drinking 6 - 8 glasses of water a day and getting eight hours of sleep at night to stabilize your mind and body. Then keep up this eating schedule to increase your health and maintain your physical and emotional balance.
5. Journal. Write your thoughts, your feelings, your complaints, and your wishes on a regular basis. At first you may not know what to write or be reluctant to cry into the page or fill it with self-criticisms. Keep going, including to do lists and dreams. Eventually you’ll find surprising value there.
These five self care practices support your brain health and your ability to perceive without falling into repetitive self doubting thoughts. Each helps you take positive steps toward reaching your New Year's wishes by first stepping toward your own health and recovery.
Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disoder recovery. All appointments are virtual. For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at
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