Activities That Have Been Helpful to Others in Recovery from an Eating Disorder

eating disorder treatment center houston tx

Struggling with an eating disorder is a very painful and isolating experience. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, therapy can help! In the meantime, try some of these activities others have found to be helpful in coping with an eating disorder.

 

1. Write Your Story:

1. Write the story of your life with particular emphasis on the events that were happening when you first became self-conscious of your body.

2. Explore in detail what those events meant to you and how they made you feel.

3. Perhaps draw a timeline marking important events.

 

2. Journal Writing:

1. Write in your journal at least once a day.

2. Check in with yourself through your journal – write when you feel anxious, lonely, afraid, overwhelmed, etc.

3. Write about your goals. What DO you hope to accomplish through recovery? Self-respect, nurturing relationships, coping skills, etc. With your list in front of you, ask that this list come true. Repeat this process throughout your recovery, as your goals will change as you grow. Asking for what you want will not only point you towards your future, but it will also help you let go of the past.

4. Topics for Written Exploration:

    • Write one sentence each about five or ten good things in your life.
    • Describe one of the happiest moments of your life. Try to remember why you felt so good about yourself at that time. Hold on to those good feelings for the rest of the day.
    • List ten people you admire (five you personally know and five you know from society or history). What attributes do they have that you admire? List your attributes. Which ones do you admire in yourself?
    • Pick one family member and write in-depth about your impressions of them as well as your relationship with them. Describe some dramatic experiences you had together. Why were those events so relevant, and how did they make you feel? Choose another family member on another writing occasion.
    • Make a list of 5-10 myths and 5-10 rules that you want to change. A myth may be something like, “Skinny people are happier,” and a rule might be, “If I eat dessert, I have to do 100 sit-ups.”
    • Make lists of short-term and long-term goals. Cross out any entries that have to do with losing weight, burning calories, etc.
    • What can you do to become more self loving?
    • The meaning of my shape to me…
    • My family’s use of avoidance to deal with conflict.
    • My use of avoidance to deal with conflict.
    • My relationship with authority.
    • My sense of self; social and sexual.
    • My impulses and the way I manage them.
    • My present or future career; why I have chosen it.
    • I can eat without fear!
    • Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.
    • My weight has nothing to do with my worth.
    • I deserve good things.
    • I trust the Universe.
    • I am grateful for my life.
    • People care about me.
    • I have a good heart.
    • My body takes good care of me.
    • I allow myself to feel.
    • I need to listen to my heart and honor my process.
    • I am love.

5. Affirmations: affirm healthy thoughts in your writing. Write even things you do not yet know to be true. Here a few examples; come up with more of your own:

    • I can eat without fear!
    • Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.
    • My weight has nothing to do with my worth.
    • I deserve good things.
    • I trust the Universe.
    • I am grateful for my life.
    • People care about me.
    • I have a good heart.
    • My body takes good care of me.
    • I allow myself to feel.
    • I need to listen to my heart and honor my process.
    • I am love.

3. Identify Goals:

1. Schedule time each day to identify goals and plan strategies to reach them. In your journal identify at least one goal for each day, either short or long-term. Underneath your goals, write down strategies which will help you handle any problems or difficult feelings that might arise as you strive to reach them. Also identify resources that you might be able to use for support.

At the end of the day set aside time to review the results. Were you able to achieve your goal? Did your strategies help? How do you feel about your goal? What else might you try? Give yourself rewards for successes.  

2. Working on concrete goals is a valuable tool. Here are some example areas for improvement:

    • body image quizAsserting myself
    • Being spontaneous
    • Communicating
    • Decision making
    • Eating with others
    • Expression of feelings
    • Feeling in charge of myself
    • Having fun
    • Indulging myself
    • Loving others
    • My self-esteem
    • Owning my sexuality
    • Socializing
    • Thinking of others
    • Trusting others
    • Dieting is a form of oppression; do not diet!
    • Notice how television stereotypes people according to weight, and turn off those kinds of shows.
    • Tear out and discard magazine photos of skinny women. How many pictures of women are left?
    • Write letters to advertisers and manufacturers that promote values of thinness. Tell them how they’ve contributed to your ED.
    • Respect people without regard to their size.
    • Take the energy that you spend on your obsession with food and weight, and funnel it in a more productive direction.
    • Don’t tolerate negative comments that others make about weight.
    • Get involved with, or financially support, organizations that promote size acceptance or eating disorders prevention.
    • Reject your fear of fat.
    • Seeing everything as black or white (weight gain = obesity).
    • Magnifying the negatives. Filtering out the positives, and letting only the negatives through. Minor problems are seen as catastrophes, and comments get blown out of proportion.
    • Taking everything personally. You may feel that people are judging you or that the world is against you.
    • The “shoulds”. Having rigid rules about how you and others should act. This can lead you to place unreasonable demands on yourself.
    • Instead of leaving your thoughts on automatic, recognize and stop the negatives.
    • Practice different, more positive self-talk through speaking and writing (write positive thoughts in your journal and rehearse them out loud regardless of whether you really believe them.)
    • Question your beliefs. When you discover that old ones do not apply to your present life, create new ones.
    • Have discussions with other people about what they believe.
    • Be open to constructive criticism.
    • Redirect or reframe negative statements. Say out loud, “I am a great person,” even if you don’t believe it 100%.
    • Above all, take quiet time to give your mind a rest and get “beyond” the chatter. When you quiet your mind, you can more easily hear the voice in your heart.
    • Cry, cry, and cry some more.
    • Cuddle with a teddy bear or pet.
    • Call someone who will be gentle with you.
    • Take a walk. Be present to the beauty of nature.
    • Buy or make an encouragement card. Frame it, hang it.
    • Listen to music.
    • Buy yourself fresh flowers.
    • Make art – whatever that means to you.
    • Write a poem that describes your feelings.
    • Talk back to your body critic. Repeat affirmations of your own making like, “My beauty is unique, my body is a gift.”
    • Notice that everyone’s body is different and stop comparing yourself. Neither ultrathin models nor the super heavy should be judged by their bodies, and neither should you.
    • Walk and speak with dignity, letting your body language reflect this emerging pride.
    • Thank your body for all the good things that it does for you. Pamper it with massages, hot baths, scents, healthy exercise, etc.
    • Get to know your body better – wear clothes that fit; appreciate your sexuality.
    • Accept compliments graciously, knowing that beauty on the outside reflects beauty on the inside.
    • Stop looking in the mirror so often and judging specific parts of your body. See the whole.
    • Throw out your scale.
    • Read self-help books on improving body image.
    • Try guided imagery and visualization techniques.
    • Dance, do yoga, experiment with different forms of movement (as opposed to vigorous exercise).
    • Meditate
    • Create opportunities to laugh
    • Take a walk
    • Do deep breathing exercises
    • Practice yoga or Tai Chi
    • Stretch
    • Pray
    • Listen to soothing music
    • Get a massage
    • Sit quietly in candlelight
    • Take a bath
    • Nap
    • Sit in a beautiful or holy place
    • Watch your fish, pet your cat, walk the dog
    • Be honest at all times.
    • Write a letter or email to a friend.
    • Volunteer in a retirement home; “adopt” one of the residents.
    • Baby-sit or play with a pet; kids and animals love unconditionally!
    • “Role play” conversations with a therapist or in the privacy of your room with an empty chair.
    • Take a class.
    • Join a club or organization.
    • Go to the park and people-watch. Imagine yourself making friends. Most people are shy, so why not take the initiative and say “hello” first?

 

4. Challenge Cultural Influences:

Nine ways to challenge cultural influences:

  • Dieting is a form of oppression; do not diet!
  • Notice how television stereotypes people according to weight, and turn off those kinds of shows.
  • Tear out and discard magazine photos of skinny women. How many pictures of women are left?
  • Write letters to advertisers and manufacturers that promote values of thinness. Tell them how they’ve contributed to your ED.
  • Respect people without regard to their size.
  • Take the energy that you spend on your obsession with food and weight, and funnel it in a more productive direction.
  • Don’t tolerate negative comments that others make about weight.
  • Get involved with, or financially support, organizations that promote size acceptance or eating disorders prevention.
  • Reject your fear of fat.

 

5. Change the Way you Think:

1. Become aware of thought patterns and beliefs. What you think becomes your reality. What you think also manifests in your life; it has the power to change your life. Examples of negative thinking patterns are:

    • Seeing everything as black or white (weight gain = obesity).
    • Magnifying the negatives. Filtering out the positives, and letting only the negatives through. Minor problems are seen as catastrophes, and comments get blown out of proportion.
    • Taking everything personally. You may feel that people are judging you or that the world is against you.
    • The “shoulds”. Having rigid rules about how you and others should act. This can lead you to place unreasonable demands on yourself.

2. Changing Your Mind:

    • Instead of leaving your thoughts on automatic, recognize and stop the negatives.
    • Practice different, more positive self-talk through speaking and writing (write positive thoughts in your journal and rehearse them out loud regardless of whether you really believe them.)
    • Question your beliefs. When you discover that old ones do not apply to your present life, create new ones.
    • Have discussions with other people about what they believe.
    • Be open to constructive criticism.
    • Redirect or reframe negative statements. Say out loud, “I am a great person,” even if you don’t believe it 100%.
    • Above all, take quiet time to give your mind a rest and get “beyond” the chatter. When you quiet your mind, you can more easily hear the voice in your heart.

6. Self-Acceptance Exercise:

1. Take an entire day to accept everything about yourself (it’s just one day). If a voice points out flaws when you get out of the shower, tell it to go away. You are having a self-acceptance day. If later on you find yourself using words like, “stupid, bad, ugly,” stop the thought. Replace it with, “I am bright, good, and beautiful.” Repeat affirmative statements, both written and verbal.

7. Feel Your Feelings:

1. Go back and remember the difficult emotional times prior to the onset of your ED. Using your journal, give yourself blocks of no more than 15 minutes for each memory. Describe in detail the event, and when you are finished, underline with a different color pen the feelings that you wrote down.

2. Work hard to extract the feelings from this event. Perhaps draw pictures to illustrate them or talk to other people who were there to get their impressions. Give your feelings the validation and attention they never got from you or anyone else. Then look at how the eating disorder helped you cope with these feelings. Give yourself the compassion and understanding that you did not have at the time.

3. Express the feelings and experiences that you have written about in therapy.

 

8. Be Gentle with Your Pain:

1. In the past, you may have coped with pain by hurting yourself, which gave you some relief from your agony.

2. Instead, promise that you will treat yourself with tenderness. Promise yourself that you will unconditionally accept exactly where you are in your process. Do not numb yourself when you are hurting so badly inside. Let your feelings flow, and be there for you.

3. Some ideas for being gentle with pain:

    • Cry, cry, and cry some more.
    • Cuddle with a teddy bear or pet.
    • Call someone who will be gentle with you.
    • Take a walk. Be present to the beauty of nature.
    • Buy or make an encouragement card. Frame it, hang it.
    • Listen to music.
    • Buy yourself fresh flowers.
    • Make art – whatever that means to you.
    • Write a poem that describes your feelings.

9. Body Image Work:

1. Dieting does not work. The vast majority of people who dislike their bodies go on diets, fail, and feel bad about themselves. Others slip into an eating disorder thinking that they have found the solution to the dieting problem.

2. One of the most difficult challenges of recovery is to love your body at any weight. Your body has a weight range that it wants to maintain – your set point. This is the healthiest weight for you and it is determined by your genes. Trust that your body will take care of this very natural process, and that there is a healthy weight range for you.

3. The pressure to be thin hurts everyone.

4. Suggestions for improving body image:

  • Talk back to your body critic. Repeat affirmations of your own making like, “My beauty is unique, my body is a gift.”
  • Notice that everyone’s body is different and stop comparing yourself. Neither ultrathin models nor the super heavy should be judged by their bodies, and neither should you.
  • Walk and speak with dignity, letting your body language reflect this emerging pride.
  • Thank your body for all the good things that it does for you. Pamper it with massages, hot baths, scents, healthy exercise, etc.
  • Get to know your body better – wear clothes that fit; appreciate your sexuality.
  • Accept compliments graciously, knowing that beauty on the outside reflects beauty on the inside.
  • Stop looking in the mirror so often and judging specific parts of your body. See the whole.
  • Throw out your scale.
  • Read self-help books on improving body image.
  • Try guided imagery and visualization techniques.
  • Dance, do yoga, experiment with different forms of movement (as opposed to vigorous exercise).

 

10. Relaxation:

1. Being too busy can have serious negative consequences. In addition to putting stress on the body, constant activity is a way to avoid problems or issues that need attention. In fact, keeping busy can become an addiction if it distracts us from painful emotions or memories.

2. The most negative consequence of overactivity is that it disconnects you from your inner self and tricks you into thinking that you are only as good as your accomplishments. You then become a human “doing” instead of a human “being.”

3. Rest and relaxation can be quite difficult. Experiment with exercises to quiet your mind and relax your body; keep your journal handy for insights, explorations, and companionship.

4. Relaxation techniques:

  • Meditate
  • Create opportunities to laugh
  • Take a walk
  • Do deep breathing exercises
  • Practice yoga or Tai Chi
  • Stretch
  • Pray
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Get a massage
  • Sit quietly in candlelight
  • Take a bath
  • Nap
  • Sit in a beautiful or holy place
  • Watch your fish, pet your cat, walk the dog

 

11. Strengthen Your Boundaries:

1. Your boundary is a border that separates you from others. It helps define you as a person with unique feelings, opinions, experiences, and values. Emotional boundaries protect your feelings, such as when you choose to limit your contact with someone who says hurtful or thoughtless things.

2. Weak boundaries are a sign that you don’t think you’re worth protecting – that you don’t matter. Weak boundaries mean that you don’t have a strong sense of yourself as separate from other people; you are more likely to do what pleases them than what pleases you.

3. Under these circumstances, an eating disorder serves as a form of boundary. It asserts your right to live your own life in your own way, and forces people to recognize you as an independent, separate person.

4. One goal of recovery is to strengthen your health boundaries. Use “I messages,” clearly stating what the other person is doing, how this makes you feel, and what you would like to be different. For example, “When you tell me you know what is best for me, I feel stupid. I’d like you to hear what I think is best for me.”

 

12. Cultivate Healthy Relationships:

1. The challenge of recovery is not for you to be independent of people, but rather that you maintain your independence while in relationships with others.

2. Making new relationships:

  • Be honest at all times.
  • Write a letter or email to a friend.
  • Volunteer in a retirement home; “adopt” one of the residents.
  • Baby-sit or play with a pet; kids and animals love unconditionally!
  • “Role play” conversations with a therapist or in the privacy of your room with an empty chair.
  • Take a class.
  • Join a club or organization.
  • Go to the park and people-watch. Imagine yourself making friends. Most people are shy, so why not take the initiative and say “hello” first?

 

13. Spiritual Pursuits:

1. Each of us has a source of love within ourselves. The experience of this inner light can give us feelings of being connected with our spiritual self and with other people, and provide us with guidance and strength to make changes.

2. Experiment with different activities to help you to be more spiritually aware, such as: meditation, prayer, spiritual readings, visualization, yoga, paying attention to your breathing, and relaxation exercises. Quiet your mind and hush the negative self-talk. Listen to the voice in your heart without directing your thoughts. Spend time devoted to reaching this inner source, and in so doing, affirm that you are important and that your inner life has value.

 

14. Let Go:

1. Perfectionism is a form of control. Being the best or being perfect at something, whether it be weight loss or having a superclean house, provides feelings of accomplishment, worth, and success. It can also be a way of avoiding other problems.

However, perfectionism is both a dangerous pursuit and a heavy burden. If you are a perfectionist, what you do in the present is never good enough because you think you could do better in the future. Your flaws are magnified. You constantly compete with yourself and others. Always on the lookout for external standards, you judge yourself unmercifully for not meeting them. Pursuing perfection has no end or reward.

2. To recover, you have to let go. Recognize that control, for you or for anyone, is an illusion. Real control, or a real sense of personal power, comes from listening and being guided by the voice in your heart. Doing everything perfectly will not necessarily make you happier, healthier, or a better person. Take risks, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and by the same token, you will have more compassion for others.

3. The serenity prayer, “God give me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” You do have a choice.

 

15. Express Yourself and Be Heard:

1. Use sentences such as, “I need” with others

2. Consider other means of expressing yourself such as through art or music, dancing, or writing poetry.

 

16. Think About Recovery:

1. Set up a schedule in order to incorporate recovery activities into your daily life.

2. Set aside time every day for writing in your journal.

3. Schedule a meditation of some kind every morning, repeat an affirmation every day, or explore a new activity once a week.

4. The focus is not how much you do, but rather that you focus on recovery in some way every day.

Want more help with food and body issues?

  1. Call us at 832-209-2222, click here to schedule an appointment with a therapist in Houston or for online therapy in Texas.
  2. Click here to read more about our Make Peace with Food Group program or workshop. 
  3. Take one of our self tests.

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Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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