When did you first begin to obsess about your body? Can you identify what event or events sprung you into yo-yo dieting, starving yourself, purging, binge eating, and/or excessive exercising? Once you can do that, you’ve identified a major contributor that prevents you from developing healthy relationships with food and exercise. Draw a time line of your life and place markers at the most eventful times. Also other changes, such as getting married, divorced, moving, having a friend move, starting or ending jobs, etc. Remember, any major change is stress, whether it’s experienced as positive or negative. No wonder brides gain an average of 18 pounds during the first year of marriage!
During these difficult times of your time line, you probably began to obsess about your body.
You attempted to self-medicate by dieting, bingeing, purging away your true feelings, and/or overexercising. This offered you what we call the illusion of control in the 12-step programs.
In other words, your life felt out of control by your parents’ divorce, a move to another city, a difficult break-up, etc. You knew that you were powerless over the situation, so you obsessed about your body and attempted to control it instead.
Eventually your new, dysfunctional way of coping took on a life of its own. Whether it’s obsessive overeating, bingeing, compulsive dieting, purging, or overexercising you’re struggling with, you’ve probably been looking for a solution for years. It became a beast in your life, and you have desperately tried to tackle it. And now you’re wondering what really works in the long-term sense, not quick fixes that help you change for a small chunk of time.
“How do people recover?
We believe an eating disorder is a mechanism for coping with stress. We binge, purge and/or starve to feel better about our shame, anger, fear, loneliness, tiredness and ordinary human needs. As we learn to address stress through other mechanisms, the symptoms of the eating disorder tend to fade away. It is a process, not an event. In EDA, we share our experience, strength and hope with each other to help one another come to terms with and change how we deal with life.
Recovery means living life on life’s terms, facing pains and fears without obsessing on food, weight and body image. In our eating disorders, we sometimes felt like helpless victims. Recovery means gaining or regaining the power to see our options, to make careful choices in our lives. Recovery means rebuilding trust with ourselves, a gradual process that requires much motivation and support. There are bound to be setbacks and moments of fear and frustration. Support – professional, group and family – helps us get through such trials safely, when we are honest about them. Support groups such as EDA provide inspiration and opportunity for turning the most deeply painful and humbling experiences to useful purpose. As we learn and practice careful self-honesty, self-care, and self-expression, we gain authenticity, perspective, peace and empowerment.”
That is an excerpt from Eating Disorders Anonymous, which provides great results for many people. I truly believe in 12- step programs ,and have been in Al-Anon (a 12-step program for friends and families of alcoholics) on and off since 1999. Next to my salvation, my husband, the gifts of attending Multnomah Seminary and another graduate school, Al-Anon has been one of the most beautiful gifts God has provided. (The 12 step programs are not affiliated with any religion.) A true life saver.
They say to try 6 meetings of a 12-step before deciding if the program works for you. (Like life itself, you can find groups like people. Some of them you really click with, and others you think, “holy moly, I feel so sorry for their mothers!” So don’t give up. Try different meetings. Also, find a good therapist who is knowledgeable about your issues.
Another great resource, also a 12-step: www.oa.com (Overeaters Anonymous)
Also www.celebraterecovery.com (for Christians)