Coping With Eating Disorder Urges
By Megan Samuels, Intern for The Eating Disorder Center
Eating disorders are often accompanied with behaviors. Some behaviors include restricting, binging, and/or purging. These behaviors can arise with intense emotions (such as sadness, loneliness, anger, etc.). Eating disorder behaviors are not “fun”. People struggling do not choose to use these behaviors, the eating disorder chooses and that is often already hard-wired into our brains. As the eating disorder evolves, it chooses certain ways to protect us from those intense emotions or anything in life that is too much to handle. An aspect in recovery that you may choose to work on with your therapist or treatment team is understanding the role that your eating disorder played in your life and how it protects/protected you, also acknowledging all of the harmful aspects of eating disorder behaviors.
There are a couple of go-to strategies that I like to use, one of which being creating time between the urge and the behavior (also known as the action). This could mean when I recognize the urge to purge, I will decide to do five coping skills first. The hope is that some coping skills could help soothe the intense emotions and use the behavior with more time after the urge or not use the behavior at all. Some coping skills I like to use are coloring, collaging, knitting, texting a friend, and putting my weighted blanket on me.
I often like to think of this skill as a pause button. For example, let’s say you get an undesirable grade on an exam. You begin to have feelings of anger (at how difficult the exam was) and disappointment (that you let your parents down). You decide that you are going to go to the nearest grocery store and buy a bunch of binge food and then eat all of it in one sitting.
PAUSE (this is where the skill comes in). The first step is recognizing that you have an urge to use a behavior (in this case it is to binge). Next, I like to actually say the word “pause” out loud to myself. This can allow your body to slow down and realize that you have some control in the next few decisions that you make.
Then, you separate urge and action. This could be telling yourself that you will call and talk to a recovery friend before going to the store. While you are on the phone with a recovery friend, you can practice talking through your anger and disappointment from the exam and you ride the waves of those emotions without feeling the need to go to the grocery store and binge. After talking to your recovery friend, you may feel much better and continue on with your day, acknowledging how proud you are of yourself for standing up to the eating disorder and working on your recovery journey.
Give this skill a try for yourself and see what you think!
**Please note that bingeing is a resilient response to coping-even if it's no longer serving you. Try to practice compassion for yourself if you do end up bingeing, rather than beating yourself up.
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The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We also offer eating disorder therapy virtually throughout California and New York (NYC) serving those in cities including Palo Alto, San Francisco, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, Woodland Hills, San Jose, and Beverly Hills. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
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The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.