Self-Help Tips  

Note: if you have even the smallest suspicion you are in medical danger, consult a physician immediately. Eating disorders can kill, and if you are already in trouble, you need medical attention, not self-help tips.

In the U.S. we live in a thin-obsessed society. The cultural ideals held up for us to emulate are either stick thin with surgically enhanced breasts (female) or powerful with clear muscle definition (male). It's no wonder that so many people develop eating disorders when they try to achieve these unrealistic -- and often unhealthy -- images of "perfection."

Almost always professional help is required for recovery from an eating disorder, but if you want to try to help yourself, here are some suggestions. If you are not in medical danger, try them for a week. If, after seven days, you can't shake your preoccupations with food and weight, and especially if you don't make any progress towards changing harmful behaviors, get help from a resource person -- a parent, school nurse, school counselor, family physician, or mental health counselor. These people can be great allies in your struggle for health and happiness. Don't avoid being honest with them because of guilt or embarrassment.

Anorexia nervosa

  • Don't diet. Never ever. Instead design a meal plan that gives your body all the nutrition it needs for health and growth. Also get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise or physical activity three to five days a week. More than that is too much.
  • Ask someone you trust for an honest, objective opinion of your weight. If they say you are normal weight or thin, believe them.
  • When you start to get overwhelmed by "feeling fat," push beyond the anxiety and ask yourself what you are really afraid of. Then take steps to deal with the threat, if it is real, or dismiss it if it is not real.

Bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder

  • Don't let yourself get too hungry, too angry, too lonely, too tired, or too bored. All these states are powerful binge triggers. Watch for them, and when they first appear, deal with them in a healthy manner instead of letting the tension build until bingeing and purging become the release of choice.
  • Stay busy and avoid unstructured time. Empty time is too easily filled with binge food.
  • Make sure that every day you touch base with friends and loved ones. Enjoy being with them. It sounds corny, but hugs really are healing.
  • Take control of your life. Make choices thoughtfully and deliberately. Make your living situation safe and comfortable.
  • Every day do something fun, something relaxing, something energizing.
  • Keep tabs on your feelings. Several times a day ask yourself how you feel. If you get off track, do whatever the situation requires to get back to your comfort zone.

© 2002 Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc.

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