Breaking the cycle of bulimia

Throughout the month of June we’re talking about food and recovery. Today we’re talking about bulimia, and specifically about how to break out of the cycle of bingeing and purging that many find themselves in.

Before we get started, let us highlight a few things:

1) It takes an incredible amount of courage and strength to be in recovery from bulimia…to recognise that you have a problem and to admit that you need support – that is huge. Don’t underestimate it.

2) It can be hard to believe that recovery is possible – especially at first and especially if you’ve lived with your eating disorder for a long time. But it is a compassionate act to know that you deserve better. Every day that you show up for your recovery you are showing up for yourself. Keep doing so and it will get easier.

3) You are not a “failure” if recovery hasn’t been smooth sailing so far. An eating disorder like bulimia impacts so many areas of our lives that it takes time to untangle it all. That is ok. Take things moment by moment – no one is asking anything more of you. The difficult days are just as meaningful as the easier ones, for you are always learning more about yourself and your needs. Trust us.

4) Nor are you a “failure” for having an eating disorder in the first place. It’s likely that it developed in response to significant challenge and with the aim of actually protecting you and keeping you going. For a while, it may have worked. But now you recognise that you don’t want or need it anymore. Acknowledge, with kindness, the difficulties you’ve been through…and use that compassion to keep you moving forward.

How to break the cycle of bulimia.

Despite how hard it may feel in the beginning, try to eat regularly and without restricting your food intake.

Eating proper meals and snacks, until you’re satisfied, will reduce the likelihood of binges, which in turn will reduce the likelihood of purging.

Integrating structure into your day-to-day creates a trusty “roadmap” to follow and removes the need to overthink food.

Fill your time between meals and snacks with meaningful engagement.

Meals and snacks are great for punctuating the daytime and providing structure, however, make sure to engage with meaningful activities that intersperse around mealtimes that help shift focus away from food.

If stress is a trigger for your eating disorder, perhaps consider some grounding exercises (belly breathing exercises or meditation) to balance your nervous system.

You could also create a mental ‘toolbox’ of self-caring activities to lean on when things start to get tense, such as taking a walk outside or talking to a friend.

Ask a trusted loved one for help so that you are not doing it alone.

There’s often a lot of shame felt around suffering with an eating disorder, and this shame can keep people isolated and trapped within the cycle of their illness. If possible, lean on someone you trust – perhaps a friend, therapist or family member – to help you in this process.

They can also help hold you accountable to your recovery and be a motivating factor for getting through this.

Don’t write the day off if something goes wrong.

Adjusting to a new structure, especially a new pattern of eating, can take a bit of time and there may be some difficult days. As much as you may want to give up for the day and “start again tomorrow” if something doesn’t go as planned, try not to. Your next meal or snack is a new opportunity to work towards recovery.

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