If you have had an eating disorder, you are probably familiar with the horrifying thoughts that threaten to swallow you whole. The thoughts that condemn and beat you into the ground. The thoughts that seem to control every decision you make.
I wish I could say that these thoughts can be easily overcome. But to be quite frank, recovery sucks. It isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time and hard work. So if you’re looking for a quick escape from your eating disorder, you may want to start looking elsewhere.
Recovery is a decision to be made every single day. Ultimately, you decide how to handle the convicting voices. And often times, this means to simply sit with them. Just sit with the voices. You can listen to them, but don’t give into them – there’s a big difference between the two.
During my recovery, I was frequently bombarded with negative, hurtful thoughts. And with them, temptations came flooding in. The temptation to omit butter from my oatmeal. The temptation to pour my orange juice down the sink when my mom looked away. The temptation to exercise at night or in the early morning. The temptation to lie about what I’d eaten. The temptation to do squats in the shower. The temptation to put one less slice of lunch meat on my sandwich.
These thoughts and temptations can be almost too much to handle, which is why I think it’s important to find distractions – things to temporarily disengage you from the voices.
Listed below are some suggested distractions to use when the thoughts and temptations hit. I found that these were all helpful for me during my own recovery:
1) Watch TV while you eat, particularly something funny. It’s a good distraction from your food, and besides, it’s hard to feel upset while watching a lighthearted show or movie!
2) Listen to music during mealtimes. My counselor recommended that I listen to “Make War” by Tedashii. The empowering lyrics and upbeat tune gave me the motivation I lacked to eat past my fears (“Worn” by Tenth Avenue North, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey, “Human” and “Tiny Victories” by Christina Perri, and “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara are just a few of the songs that I especially enjoyed amidst recovery).
3) Write during your free time. Write about your day. Write about your dreams or future plans. Write your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
4) Call or visit a friend. Social interactions are so, so important in recovery. Surround yourself with people that will encourage you, both in words and in action – specifically people that aren’t dieting or trying to lose weight. Surround yourself with normal eaters.
5) Draw or color a picture. I know, I know. You might insist that you’re “too old” for coloring, as if that’s a thing. But both activities are soothing and therapeutic. It’s an easy distraction from food, and, when finished, you’ll have a beautiful piece of artwork!
6) Play a board game. When I began recovery, I remember my dad suggesting that we play cards together. I didn’t necessarily welcome the idea at first, but it proved to be a fun time! It was a good bonding experience, and it kept my thoughts, though only temporarily, off of food and exercise.
7) Play video games. I’ve never been much of a gamer, but I am pretty competitive. Whether it be Mario Kart, Wii bowling, or Fortnite, video games are a good distraction from other things. And for those that aren’t as accustomed to electronic gaming (e.g., myself), it can be a nice change of pace.
8) Read a book. Although reading has become sort of old-fashioned nowadays, it will never go out of style! Transport yourself to foreign countries and travel across the globe. Go on adventures and meet new people, and all with the turn of a page!
9) Take a bubble bath – seriously! Scientific studies have shown that bathing can alleviate stress and reduce anxiety. Blast the Spotify and relax! Lay back and soak it in. You deserve it!
10) Dig into God’s Word. Yeah, yeah. Maybe you aren’t religious. You don’t believe in God. You have an eating disorder, not a spiritual crisis. But please, just try. The Bible is God’s way of speaking directly to you. He loves you so much! In fact, God is love (1 John 4:8). “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us (2 Corinthians 1:4).”
I could give plenty more suggestions, but these are my top ten favs! Some may sound generic or unoriginal, but, speaking from past experience, all were beneficial to my overall mental health.
I recommend that each be done from a seated position. Anorexia hates the notion of remaining idle. Thus, you sit still.
Don’t combat negative thoughts with restriction or exercise. Don’t give into Anorexia. Don’t give into her temptations. Don’t sneak off to the bathroom to compulsively burn calories or to hide food away. It’s not worth it. You, are worth more.