Lifestyle Changes to Manage Eating Disorders
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Recovery from an eating disorder can take anywhere from several months to years. Certain lifestyle changes can help you during and after your recovery.
These may include the following:
- ]]>Maintain a healthy weight and body image.]]>
- ]]>Maintain a rational approach to dieting, food, and exercise.]]>
- ]]>Know and avoid triggers.]]>
- ]]>Receive treatment, as necessary.]]>
- ]]>Work on building a meaningful, fulfilling, and satisfying life.]]>
- ]]>Develop effective coping skills.]]>
- ]]>Take medications as prescribed.]]>
Work on developing and maintaining a healthy and realistic body image and weight. During the times when you feel fat, ask yourself if your life would really be much different if you were underweight. Would you automatically be more successful, popular, and loved? Realize that the things you want to achieve in life have little to do with being underweight and more to do with setting and achieving realistic goals. Remember that being thin does not equal being happy.
Do not diet, even if you need to lose some weight. Rather, you need a meal plan that gives you adequate nutrition for health and normal growth. You can work toward a healthy weight by limiting your intake of high fat foods, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, and eating whole grains]]>, ]]>fruits, vegetables,]]> and adequate ]]>protein]]>. If you need help planning your diet, a registered dietitian or nutritionist is the best source for advice.
Also, make sure you get regular, but not excessive, exercise. This can help you maintain a healthy weight. Thirty to 60 minutes of exercise 3-5 days a week is sufficient.
Certain situations can trigger disordered eating behavior. Do not let yourself get too hungry and don’t deprive yourself of good-tasting food. Feelings of deprivation can lead to cravings and food binges. If you crave a certain high-fat, high-calorie food, it’s okay to have it occasionally.
There are probably certain foods and situations that tempt you to overeat. Keep these foods out of the house and stay away from tempting situations as much as possible. If you tend to overeat at buffets, for example, stay away from them.
Emotions, such as fear, anger, sadness, and even happiness, can be powerful triggers for food binges. Pay attention to your feelings and how you may turn to food to deal with them. Find alternative ways of dealing with strong emotions, such as talking with a friend or therapist or writing in a journal.
Don’t feel defeated if you fall back into your old habits. This does not mean that you have failed. You are learning to build new habits (something that can take time). If you have a relapse, call your therapist right away and schedule an appointment. He can help you re-evaluate and fine tune your recovery program.
Rather than focusing on food and weight for fulfillment, spend time building a meaningful, satisfying life. This involves developing feelings of competence and self-esteem by discovering and utilizing your talents. Work on appreciating and enjoying your abilities without having to do everything perfectly. Develop some hobbies and do things that are fun and pleasurable. Join some clubs and groups with people who share common interests and work on developing healthy relationships.
Stressful life events can trigger eating disorders in susceptible people or trigger a relapse in those who have recovered. You can control self-induced stress by developing a more realistic self-image and expectations. This can be achieved through counseling and learning how to take charge of the things you can control, such as your attitude and ability to make healthy choices.
Various relaxation techniques, such as meditation]]>, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, ]]>yoga]]>, and ]]>biofeedback]]>, can also help you cope with stress. These techniques increase your awareness of tension in your body and help release it through exercises that quiet your mind and relax your muscles. Regular pleasurable activities can help you relieve stress, as well.
Most people with eating disorders will have medications prescribed. These medications are not a cure, but they can be very important in helping you avoid disordered eating behaviors. Many people with eating disorders have associated psychiatric problems including depression]]> , ]]>anxiety]]> , and ]]>substance abuse]]>. Medications may also help reduce symptoms of these disorders and, in this way, eliminate triggers that lead to disordered eating. Learning to take medication each day is often itself a major lifestyle change.
Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org .
Eating disorders: facts about eating disorders and the search for solutions. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/eatingdisorders.cfm . Accessed April 8, 2007.
Eating disorders information index. National Eating Disorders Association website. Available at: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/p.asp?WebPage_ID=294 . Accessed April 8, 2007.
Lock J, le Grange D, Agras WS, Dare C, Agras W. Treatment Manual for Anorexia Nervosa: A Family-Based Approach. New York, NY: Guilford Press; 2000;xviii+270.
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/site/anadweb/ .
Troop NA, Holbrey A, Treasure JL. Stress, coping, and crisis support in eating disorders. Int J Eat Disord . 1998;24:157-166.
Yager J, Devlin MJ, Halmi KA, et al. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Eating Disorders. 3rd ed. American Psychiatric Association; 2006. Available at: http://www.psych.org/psych_pract/treatg/pg/EatingDisorders3ePG_04-28-06.pdf . Accessed April 8, 2007.
Last reviewed April 2009 by ]]> Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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