5 Effective Coping Skills to Assist Your Journey to Recovery
Recovery is a journey. Recovery takes time. Recovery is your journey that you live and control day to day. Throughout this time, life stressors that you may not be able to control come into play and you may feel as if they are acting as a halt in the direction you were headed throughout your recovery journey. Life stressors may include starting back up at school, starting a new job or leaving a current one, an increase in financial obligations, taking care of an elderly family member, moving to a new home, worrying about a touchy conversation you need to have with someone, or even relationship stress. Facing this stress, it feels quite easy to rely on disordered coping skills. However, these disordered coping skills can mentally and physically play a negative impact on recovery. With an eating disorder and partaking in disordered coping skills, one’s eating disorder symptoms could heighten. Practicing healthy coping skills with your eating disorder will aid to the longevity of your wellness and nourishment journey.
Here are 5 effective and healthy coping skills to handle those stressful bumps in the road that life may present in your path while you are on the road to your recovery:
Did someone say Self-Care? Make yourself your own priority! Wash your face, brush out your hair, put on a face mask, and hop in that bath tub! Light your favorite candle. Enjoy Mother-Earth and the sunshine she has to offer by taking a walk outside and enjoying some fresh air. Listen to the soothing sound of the rain hitting your windows and meditate for 10 minutes. Get cozy and read a new book. Tidy up your living space, rearrange your closet or organize your dresser. Cook yourself one of your favorite meals or bring out your favorite family relative’s cookie recipe! Allow yourself 7-8 hours of sleep, being well-rested will aid in avoiding triggers.
2. Start a new hobby or activity, or return to one you truly enjoyed in the past. Run to Michael’s, grab a canvas and paint something beautiful, get creative! Start a new DIY project for something that would look great in your home, or something you can give to someone as a gift! Inquire through social media or online for a local book club if you enjoy a great read with people that share the same passion as you. Gather friends and family for a once-a-week game night, such as bowling, roller skating. You could even form a kickball team! Find your passion!
3. Journal it out! Keep a journal handy to write about your day. Write about your daily thoughts, emotions, something encouraging someone said to you that day, three things that you are thankful for.
4. Recognize the way that you speak to yourself. Whether it be about your body, the food that you eat, or your actions. Write down the negative thought, and for every negative thought, on a separate piece of paper (let’s say a sticky-note) write down three positive thoughts about yourself. Now, throw away that negative thought and remove it from your mind-space as it falls into the trash, crumbled up and left behind. Take that sticky note with your three positive thoughts about yourself and place that on your mirror. Leave it there! Look at yourself in the mirror and read these positive thoughts out loud. Remind yourself how awesome you are. Speak these thoughts into existence to yourself and they will become a part of you! Self doubt and self blame will not cure your eating disorder. Uplift yourself.
5. Reach out and lean on the community you have built around yourself of friends, family, loved ones, and others going through their own road to recovery. Associate yourself with those that you can trust. These people can help carry you throughout your journey when times don’t feel as easy or fair as they should to you. Allow them and involve them in your healthy coping mechanisms. You will be able to rely on these people when you allow them in, giving them your trust and them giving you theirs!
3 tips for coping with triggers in Eating disorder recovery. National Eating Disorders Association. (2018, February 21). https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/3-tips-coping-triggers-eating-disorder-recovery.
About eating disorders. Eating Disorder Foundation.org. (n.d.). https://eatingdisorderfoundation.org/learn-more/about-eating-disorders/coping/.
To cope with stress, Try Learning Something new. Harvard Business Review. (2019, November 26). https://hbr.org/2018/09/to-cope-with-stress-try-learning-something-new.
These days, there are as many diets as there are types of breakfast cereals (read: too many!). Unfortunately, most diets create a false connotation of the word diet, incorporating some aspect of restriction, food/nutrient avoidance or fasting. However, the original definition of diet was simply “habitual nourishment” (Webster’s Dictionary). Any time one avoids or restricts food intake in any way, there is risk of missing out on key nutrients that are essential for health. The best diet is one that includes a variety of all foods in moderation (unless of course medical reasons prohibit one from doing so). Read on to find out the downfalls to some of today’s most popular diets.
There is nothing inherently wrong with gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley. Yet recently it’s gotten a bad rap and has become the latest food group to avoid. For those with Celiac Disease, gluten damages the lining of the intestine causing malabsorption and a slew of other symptoms. Those with an allergy to gluten can have a variety of reactions, some of which are life threatening. For folks in these two camps, it is imperative that these individuals completely avoid gluten. Others, however, choose to eat gluten free (GF) for a variety of other anecdotal reasons. Unfortunately, those following the diet, no matter the reasons behind it, are at risk of many nutrient deficiencies.
Gluten free products are known to be low in nutrients that are typically found in whole grain, wheat-based products, such as B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber. Wheat based products (i.e. bread, cereals, crackers, etc.) are mandated by law to be enriched with many of the aforementioned nutrients while GF products do not fall under such regulations. Therefore, a diet made up of mostly GF pre-packaged items will provide less nutrients than their wheat based counterparts. This is especially important for children and adolescents following a GF diet who are still growing and developing.
In addition, a lot of GF products are made with added sugars and are higher in cholesterol, calories and fat. So a 1:1 switch from gluten-containing to GF products will not necessarily bring about improved health, except when medically necessary.
Therefore, any individual on a GF diet should seek counsel from a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in order to ensure that their new intake pattern provides all the necessary nutrients required for optimal health.
Low Carb Diets
Low carbohydrate diets have become the go-to approach for improving health and losing weight. There are many different low carb diets out there. The premise is generally the same – reduced carb intake, increased protein/fat intake. Proponents of the low carb diets claim that carbs cause weight gain and therefore should be limited and/or avoided. Unfortunately, the science just isn’t that simple and more current research is debunking the myth that carbs are “bad.” Like it or not, carbs are essential for every bodily cell’s proper function. The brain can only use carbohydrate for energy and if you’ve ever followed a low carb diet, your brain has taken notice. Many low carb dieters complain of brain fog, headaches, blurred vision, difficulty concentrating and reduced cognitive abilities. Newsflash – it’s because the brain is in need of more carbohydrates! In addition, carbohydrates provide necessary energy to the muscles during exercise and many grain-based carbohydrate foods are excellent sources of other vitamins and minerals that one misses out on when reducing carb consumption.
This isn’t to say one should consume carbs like they’re going out of style – our culture’s portion sizes have certainly led to carb overconsumption. However completely eliminating carbs or entire food groups, such as grains, altogether isn’t the ideal response. Carbs should be present at each meal & snack (again, think about feeding the brain), yet moderation is key. Choosing high-quality, fiber-rich carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables will provide required nutrients and lasting energy to help you get through your day. Low carb diet followers often weight-cycle after repeated bouts of carb-avoidance and falling off the wagon. Research and years of client testimonials prove that low carb eating is extremely difficult to sustain life-long.
Cleanses & Detoxifying Diets
Typically these diets consist of mainly liquids and promise to bring about quick weight loss and flush toxins out of the body. Many believe it is necessary to cleanse the body and clean out the gut in order to lose weight and feel better. Cleanse and detox diets provide inadequate protein, fat and carbs, which means followers of these diets are typically miserable during the process (see above about feeding the brain). Like the low carb diets, these types of regimens are also not sustainable and any weight lost is typically regained as soon as regular food intake is resumed. In addition, the claims of flushing toxins out of the body are unsupported by research.
Regardless of one’s reasons for going vegan, this diet presents a number of nutrition risks. It’s vitally important to be aware of the nutrient deficiencies inherent in this diet so as to properly compensate for them. Often, vegans fall short in their protein, B-12, calcium, iron, omega-3 and vitamin D intake. Because most of these nutrients are most abundantly available in animal products, it can be incredibly difficult to meet one’s daily needs through plant-based foods and grains. It takes a lot of pre-planning and finesse to ensure that all nutrients are represented. Therefore, vegans should be seen by a physician to monitor vitamin and mineral levels in addition to seeking the assistance of a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist.
But people choose to go on a diet – including children. Well children don’t always choose to go on diets, but their parents sure do. Many parents have their children eat what they eat. Case in point, as an eating disorder expert, I have had countless patients whose parents put the family on a Gluten Free diet, Vegan diets, all organic diet, and on and on. No child should ever be on a diet. They are growing and need a variety of foods for their best health (not including allergic or medical conditions). Teaching kids that there are good and bad foods influence children and hence there is a sense of shame in what you eat. There should be no guilt for anything we eat. Food is not a morality issue.
I have found that around the ages of 10-12 when a girls body is going through puberty, the messages they receive about their body is paramount. The average person should gain about 30 pounds during the course of puberty and everyone’s bodies grows differently. This is the time that many girls then think that they need to lose weight. Body dissatisfaction often starts around this time and is so prevalent amongst our children.
Parent Tip: Do not make negative comments about anyone’s body – especially your own.
Fact: 95% of diets fail. If diets didn’t fail, we wouldn’t have so many people in our world on diets and the diet industry wouldn’t be making an enormous amount of money.
Stay tuned for Kate Grefenstette, RD to write a post on the negatives of the different diets out there.
My hope is that we can start seeing food and our bodies not as the enemy but just a part of our humanity.