It seems like eating disorder relapse can take people by surprise. Is it important to understand that eating disorder relapse is a possibility, and to talk about it? Absolutely!
People are new in the world of recovery believe that once they have some time under their belt they are home free.
It doesn’t matter if you have three months, six months or 10 years under your belt you are not impervious to having a relapse. It may not happen overnight there are usually warning signs if you are paying attention. And then a situation catches you off guard, getting to a point of H.A.L.T.: hungry, angry, lonely, tired and you need to step back and breathe. Instead, you push yourself to the limits while your resistance is down and you can fall into an old un-resourceful state. You start obsessing about your weight, your experiencing negative emotions and self-talk. You start to feel undeserving or unworthy and you find yourself turning to food to feel better.
Here are some things to watch for or consider when dealing with eating disorder relapse and body image dysmorphia:
1. Why can relapses of eating disorders feel so surprising for those who’ve had treatment for them in the past?
You want to believe you have control over it and it is something you have dealt with. Unfortunately the diseases is insidious and can take you by surprise. Realize that you get to meet your nemesis 3 to 5 times a day. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It is not something you can ever get away from unlike if you chose drugs or alcohol. You can go through periods of time where you don’t feel the pull of the food to you or the energy that it used to take from you. You feel free of the addiction. Understand over time there could be triggers and emotions that can bring you back to familiar and it is common that people will pick up where they left of
2. What are some of the signs an eating disorder may be resurfacing and heading into a relapse?
Signs of an eating disorder resurfacing can start with your food getting sloppy. Making poor choices. Not choosing healthy and letting your emotions dictate your behaviors. Negative self-talk about whether you are enough or not. You start comparing yourself to what you should have, could have, would have if. Find yourself restricting or overly indulging in food. You’re on the scale all the time weighing yourself and basing your self-esteem on how much you weigh. Look for extremes. Using food to deal with your emotions. Eating when you’re not hungry, tired, frustrated, bored and trying to fill a void with food or punishing yourself by withholding from eating.
3. And what is the best thing someone can do if he/she is worried about a loved one relapsing with an eating disorder?
Before you start pointing fingers it’s best to start asking questions about what’s going on with them. It’s never about the food. It’s not what he/she is eating, it’s what’s eating at them. Find out what’s going on in their life and if you can help. Emotions are energy in motion. If they are feeling badly they may need new resources to deal with their emotions so they don’t resort back to their old behavior. Too often people make it about the food, but the food is just a symptom not the problem. If they need help suggest they seek out a professional that specializes in eating disorders.
4. How important is it for someone with a history of eating disorder to NOT brush off body image issues or hints of a relapse as no big deal?
It is very important for someone who has a history of an eating disorder to not brush your body image issues. Realizing that our self-esteem and body image or direct reflection of our actions and how we see ourselves and believe others see us. Understanding that you never do something good for someone you don’t like it’s important that you like yourself and learn to FLY, First Love Yourself!
Seems like negative self-talk and old patterns of over-exercising, for example, can be ingrained in many from a very early age. This is one reason why it’s crucial to do something/get help if one is worried he/she is slipping into an old pattern. Can you talk about this?
If you’re worried about slipping back into an old behavior it’s important to seek help. More people stay in dis-ease with themselves because they feel like they need to do it alone. The strength comes from asking for help. The sooner you get the help the better chance you have of not going into a total relapse.
55% of our beliefs are formed by the time were five years old by well-meaning teachers, preaches, guardians and parents. The other 45% are built on a shaky foundation. Studies have shown it takes 20 positive statements to counteract even one negative one.
Without working to reprogram your mind you can easily default to f.i.n.e. (frustrated, insecure, erotic, and emotional) when you really want to be f.a.b. (fabulous, awesome, beautiful) and go back to disordered eating.
5. What’s the difference between body image “issues” and disordered thinking/eating? It seems like most women face some sort of body image issue at some stage (or always). But how can our readers tell if it’s a real problem? Is there a benchmark.
Body image issues reflect how you see yourself, your thoughts and attitudes about your physical appearance. It can be associated with shame, anxiety and self-consciousness. Disordered eating is your relationship with food.
If a women has a poor body image of herself she may experience body dysmorphia or poor body images where they look in the mirror and see themselves flawed in some way. Their dissatisfaction with themselves will lead to negative thoughts and self-defeating cycles. They have more of a likelihood of developing disordered eating, thinking they need to starve, restrict or you use to fill the void and overeat taking the attitude of I’m fat anyway so might as well eat it all.
The benchmark is where you fall into the extremes. Are you happy with yourself or are you beating yourself up and looking at a few things not right in your life or everything that is wrong? Is it mildly affecting your choices or are you finding yourself at extremes where you feel you are choosing unhealthy choices and experiencing disordered eating. Do you feel anxiety and stress over your body and size? Have you gotten to the point where you hate your body and you just don’t care anymore and you feel you might as well eat because that is the only thing that gives you comfort? You have gone the extreme and you are in a full blown eating disorder.
Where ever you are in your journey know there is help. Pay attention to the signs early on. There are always warning signals. Take care of yourself. Choose healthy. Surround yourself with positive people, places and things. Focus on what’s good in your life not what isn’t. If you are struggling, reach out for help now, we are here to support you.