How can I help myself?
Eating problems can be overcome. Many people find that, once they have found support and help, they begin to learn how to tackle their eating problem, cope with the causes of their eating problem, and improve their relationship with food.
Talk to people you trust
While people around you may find your eating problem, or eating problems in general, difficult to understand, they will usually want to help you however they can. You may find it helpful, when you feel able to, to discuss with the people around you things that they can do to help, and things that they should try to avoid doing when with you. They may want to look at the ‘For Friends and Family’ section.
It is important to be open with the people closest to you; they may not completely understand, but they will usually be willing to learn and want to help however they can.
If you experience eating problems, you may feel extremely ashamed, isolated, and misunderstood, especially if you are used to hiding your behaviour. There are great benefits from talking to others with the same problem.
Online peer support
If you find it hard to open up about your eating problem to people around you, you could use an online forum.
However, it is important to make sure that you stay safe online. There are lots of websites and forums which promote eating problems, and getting involved with them may make it harder for you to get better. Below are some tips for if you decide to look for or use an online forum to discuss your eating problem.
- Be aware of how you feel when you are online and adjust the places you visit and the people you follow if you need to. It is ok to take a break from social media, or to adjust your lifestyle, so that this plays less of a part in how you spend your time
- Remember that many pictures have been manipulated to make the person look different. Even pictures on social media may have been filtered or photoshopped
- Think about how you deal with pictures of yourself. Do they make you feel bad or do you feel you need to change them to hide how you really look?
- Think about whether you are following anyone whose pictures make you feel bad or trigger problematic thoughts. Unfollow them if you can
- Block or avoid any websites that promote eating disorders
- Look for positive communities around eating, recovery and body positivity
You could also ask a friend or family member to help if you’re concerned about what you might find online.
Practise mindfulness or relaxation techniques
Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment in your mind, body, and surroundings, acknowledging the environment around you, your feelings and how your body feels. When you slow down and pay attention to the present, you can catch sight of certain things that help you better understand and therefore manage your own reactions and moods.
“I use mindfulness when I eat. It helps me to realise that I deserve food, and to eat it in the right way.”
You may also want to try relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga. These aim to quieten your mind and put you into a state of calm, stillness and rest. Some type of relaxation techniques may also involve mindfulness.
You may attend a yoga or guided meditation class in your area. Alternatively, if you can’t attend physical classes, you may search online for videos or apps that provide guided relaxation instructions. Below are some recommended apps for guided meditation or yoga:
- Insight Timer
- 10% Happier: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics
- Stop, Breathe & Think
Learn to be kind to yourself
Eating problems can be a really big part of your life, and changing how you feel and behave can take time. You may need to make slow changes.
Your first changes may not even be about eating – you might want to do things that help you feel good about your body, like having a massage, or boost your confidence, like asking friends to write down their favourite things about you.
Sometimes you may feel that you have taken steps backwards, or relapsed, and this can be discouraging. It’s important to accept this as part of the process, and it’s worth finding a way to focus on what you have achieved. Being kind to yourself can be hard if you feel bad about yourself or feel worthless. Mind’s booklet How to increase your self-esteem has information that can help you change these feelings.
Take practical steps to change unhealthy routines
Your routines around eating and food can be hard to break, especially if you’re experiencing eating problems. You might find that putting some small, practical solutions in place can help you avoid eating patterns that you find problematic. This might mean buying smaller amounts of food if you’re overeating, or making sure you do something fun after meals if you’re worried about purging, or setting goals unrelated to weight or calories if you’re worried about obsessive dieting.
“I do better with buying food in single servings so I only have around what I’m intending to eat there and then. Distractions after a meal are key for me! Going online, watching a movie, reading, working, etc.”