Hunger and Fullness Cues
Hunger cues come from lows in blood sugar and emptying of the stomach. Messages are sent to the brain via hormones and nerves. The brain then responds to these by creating cues that motivate us to find food and increase our blood sugar. When we are unwell, these cues can become so distorted and even absent, so navigating hunger and fullness in recovery is so hard. We want to eat like a ‘normal’ person, but we feel full after a few bites of food. This is why it is so important to have a supervised meal plan and strong supports around you to ensure you take in the right amount of food in recovery.
In contrast, some may feel ravenous once they start eating again, which may flip them into a binge. This is not ideal as it just feeds into the restrict/binge/purge cycle that fed their ED. Its for this reason that we need to start paying attention to our fullness and ‘stuffed’ cues as well.
Being able to recognise these cues for yourself is so important in building an understanding and appreciation of your body, so that one day you might just trust it to let you know when you need food, and when you need to stop eating.
You can download the Hunger and fullness cues visuals here.
Stages of Change Model
The amazing thing about this model, is that even though it appears cyclic, your recovery path could jump all over these stages. You might find yourself in “preparation” one day, “pre-contemplation” the next day, and in “action” the day after. It shows that recovery is not linear, and it’s not easy. It takes a lot of work and dedication, and relapse is an inevitable part of that.
The best thing about relapse? You learn something new. Every time you relapse you learn about new triggers, and can then learn new skills to protect you against those triggers in future!
You can download the Stages of Change model here.
Ikigai is the Japanese concept for a ‘reason for being’.
When we’re unwell, we lose ourselves. We forget who we are, so of course a big part of recovery is getting back in touch with ourselves and finding our values. If we’ve lived years in our illnesses, this process in unbelievably difficult. We confuse our ED values with our personal values, and we don’t know what to do.
Who we are and what out purpose in this life is, revolves around four things
– What we are good at
– What we love
– What we are paid for
– What this world needs
If you feel stuck in your recovery and disconnected from yourself, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions. Write the answers down and look at what you’ve got. Of course it may take some time to get to the core of your purpose, and that’s expected, but simply knowing what we can bring to this world, and what brings us happiness and satisfaction is a good start to finding yourself in recovery.
You can download Ikigai here.
The Trigger Tree
Triggers are something that arise daily when living with an illness, and they are often unavoidable. As they say, “It’s not what happens in life, it’s how you deal with it”. Well, how can you deal with triggers in a way that ensures you do not lose your progress in recovery?
Attached is the trigger tree worksheet (blank and example), in which you can learn a healthy step by step processing of identifying triggers, and the thoughts and emotions that arise from them. These steps are important as they help you practice mindfulness and help separate you from your thoughts and urges.
For example, instead of “what you said has triggered me, and now I want to binge/purge”, you can work towards “what you said has triggered me, it has made me think that I am not important and that makes me feel unloved”.
Becoming confident in this pathway will help you in practicing assertive communication as well!
It is then up to you, to decide what healthy coping mechanisms you can use when you are feeling triggered. You might want to write down the names and numbers of friends you can talk to, and write in activities that are meaningful to you (for example, I draw!). There are examples of healthy coping mechanisms in the example worksheet to inspire your own list.
You can download The Trigger Tree here.
The ‘I Feel Fat’ Translation Wheel
Fat is not a feeling. Though, how often do we hear ourselves saying “I feel fat”?
With an Eating Disorder, that ‘fat feeling’ very quickly translates into disordered behaviour. For example, “If I feel fat, not eating dinner will make me feel less fat”. What’s happening under the surface of that though is very different, and skipping dinner will not help me overcome this negative emotion in the long run. If I was to identify that I was feeling lonely, well then I’d be able to validate my emotion and do something to make me feel less alone.
Using this wheel you can practice looking beyond that ‘fat feeling’, to identify what is really happening for you. You might be feeling insecure, or threatened, or maybe even just tired.
You can download the I Feel Fat Translation Wheel here.
The Anger Iceberg
Anger isn’t a bad emotion.
Anger is a surface emotion, and in order to learn and understand your emotions, it’s important to recognise what emotion is happening under the surface. This also goes for understanding why another person may be angry. There is almost always another emotion hiding away, fuelling the anger you see.
If we can identify the emotion below the surface, we will be better equipped to help soothe our anger. Addressing the anger itself, is like putting a bandaid over a sore, but ignoring the infection. What’s hiding below might be heartbreak, or it could be guilt.
What’s important to remember is that anger is a valid emotion, even if it is secondary. It serves an important purpose, and for some people, anger might be easier to feel than insecurity or shame. Always be curious!
You can download the Anger Iceberg here.
Should I Be Exercising?
Navigating exercise in recovery is a hard task. How can we be sure our desire to exercise isn’t our ED’s choice? Of course, recovery is all about fighting against the ED, but when it comes to exercise, that line is really blurry.
This is a guide of questions you should be asking yourself before you engage in your next work out. If you have been advised by your treating physician not to exercise, then the answer is always going to be no, but if you feel like you’re in a good place in your recovery, and you’ve taken some time away from exercise with the intention of losing weight, I highly recommend using this guide.
You can download Should I Be Exercising here.
Why does this trigger me?
Being triggered is ok.
Being upset when you see an underweight body is ok.
Crying because you wish you had a smaller body is ok, but I want you to ask yourself, WHY?
Why do thigh gaps make you miserable?
Why does a particular number on the scale seem so magical?
Why does the image of somebody’s bones trigger a massive breakdown?
This illustration aims to answer some of those questions. Remember, being triggered and feeling fat indicate that there is a bad thought and negative emotion occurring below the surface. Understanding that thought and that emotion, will be the key to overcoming that trigger.
You can download Why does this trigger me here.
Why Do I Miss My Eating Disorder?
Have you ever found yourself in recovery and wanting to take a step back towards your Eating Disorder?
There’s nothing wrong with you for doing so. Your ED had a lot of great qualities, but I want you to ask yourself what qualities you miss. This is a list of some questions you might want to ask yourself, or even use as prompts for your journal.
When you find those answers, take them to your supports. Tell them “I need __ and I don’t know how to get that without turning back to my Eating Disorder”. The great thing about recovery is finding healthy alternatives, so that eventually, there’s no need for your Eating Disorder at all.
You can download why do you miss your ED
The Exhausted Girl’s Guide to Self-Care after a Binge
Binges happen and they suck.
Not only is your head a mess of guilt, anger and frustration, your body is bloated, sore and exhausted. I see a lot of post-binge guides that focus on going for walks and doing yoga, which is all well and good, but I wanted to create something that focused less on exercise, and more on the rest side of things.
If we look at a binge as an intense period of emotion and uncontrollable behaviour, we start to see just how traumatic they can be on the body. Of course guilt is usually the driving emotion after the event, which is what tends to drive the overwhelming urges to compensate (i.e. purging, exercising, etc). But what if instead of punishing our minds and bodies, we took care of them?
Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come up. If you’re angry, get angry. If you’re sad, cry. Do nice things for your body, give it extra love. Do nice things for your mind. Use distraction or affirmations and remind yourself ‘this is ok, I am ok’. But most importantly, continue eating to your meal plan and keep your fluids up.
You can download guide to self care after binge
Guide to Sorting Through Clothes in Recovery
Our clothes can be one of our biggest triggers in recovery.
We see curves take shape as our bodies come back to life, but it doesn’t feel like that. It feels tight and uncomfortable, and it causes us to fill with anxiety. Clothes that used to hang off us are now skin tight and we find ourselves crying every time we open the wardrobe.
Selecting to get rid of clothes is a really hard process, as our ED’s want us to hold onto our smaller clothes (in case we lose weight again). Sometimes prompts and black and white criteria like this flow chart are all the help we need to finally let go of those old ED clothes.
You can download the guide to throwing away clothes in recovery