This question “How do you stop delaying eating?” came from a sweet soul called Helena. Thank you Helena for this question, the insights you share with me, and all the love you give in the FB group.
Why do you delay your eating?
The first place I want to go here is to ask a question…
“Why do you delay your eating?”
I’ll speak for myself and share that I used to delay my eating for the following reasons;
- The longer I could go without food, the better because that would mean fewer calories overall and calories were the devil.
- When I started eating I typically wanted more and was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself and that I’d eat “too much” so the fewer chances of that happening the better.
- It was a game I played with myself that I got extreme gratification out of when I succeeded in not eating or delaying it as much as possible.
- I felt superior to others who seemed to ‘have’ to eat at least 3 times a day.
- I didn’t want to succumb to the ‘humanness’ of needing to eat. When I ate I felt deeply shameful and dirty.
- It was also a way of delaying gratification. There was a part of me that wanted to eat, the part that I suppressed as much as possible… and so if I got pleasure out of eating, I was only ‘allowed’ pleasure once a day at the end of the day. It felt good to look forward to it all day and at the same time, I didn’t deserve pleasure anyway. It was like I ‘got off’ from denying my needs.
All of these reasons are of course from the eating disorder plus the outcome of emotional trauma.
What do you want?
The second question I have for you is…
“What do you want?”
I assume you want to stop delaying eating because this is a restrictive eating disorder behaviour and you want to be free from the eating disorder. So I’d love for you to write down in detail what it is you want.
EG: I want to be fully recovered from the eating disorder and live in total food freedom. I don’t want to give a shit about how many calories I’ve eaten or whether my stomach is flat or not. I want to detach the way I think my body looks from my happiness and worthiness. I want to feel good nourishing myself and my body and taking care of myself in all ways. Delayed eating is not in the life that I want for myself.
When you have written down in detail what it is you want, I’d like you to rewrite it in the present tense.
EG: I am fully recovered from the eating disorder and live in total food freedom. I don’t give a shit about how many calories I’ve eaten or whether my stomach is flat or not. I have detached the way I think my body looks from my happiness and worthiness. I feel good nourishing myself and my body and taking care of myself in all ways. I eat unrestrictedly following my mental and physical hunger which looks like regular eating. This feels so freeing and empowering!
And when you’ve done that I’d like you to record your own voice speaking that out loud, really feeling how it would feel to actually be living that. Then I’d like you to listen 3 times a day with at least one of those listens when you’re lying down with your eyes closed.
This will help to reprogram your subconscious mind and rewire your brain so that you’ll be living the life you want sooner than you think. Your actions will start to feel easier as you’ll feel less resistance. This is because your brain doesn’t know the difference between make-believe and reality. So if you’re programming your brain via repetition with your ideal life, it thinks it’s already true, especially if you bring FEELING into it. When it thinks it is already true, it will support you in behaving that way. Basically, brainwash yourself into behaving how you’d like to behave.
Our brains can’t tell the difference between reality and our thoughts.
For example, It doesn’t matter if an anxiety sufferer is experiencing an anxious situation or imagining it, they will experience a stress response either way. Stress hormones like cortisol and fight/flight hormones like adrenaline are released regardless of whether they are in a stressful situation or not. To put it simply, their brains can’t tell the difference between what is reality and what is imagined.
Scientific studies back this up. One study, in particular, took two groups of individuals and asked one to play a specific set of keys on the piano and the other to imagine playing a set of keys. Under both circumstances, whilst being scanned, brain activity significantly increased in brain regions corresponding to motor movement of the hand. This is significant as our brains clearly cannot differentiate between what is reality and what is not. Just like our anxiety example.
What we imagine has a tremendous impact on our minds and bodies. So allow yourself to imagine multiple times a day what it would be like if you were living in food freedom and body love. Make it up. Play make-believe. It’s going to help!
Who do you need to BE to have what you want?
Who would you need to be in order to have what you want? Because before you can have something, you first need to be the person who already has gotten it.
Asked differently; What characteristics would someone have who was rocking recovery and surging toward freedom? Who was eating regularly and unrestrictedly?
Would they be committed to recovery?
Would they be resilient?
Would they be determined?
Would they be in the state of “Whatever it fucking takes!“? (I’d say that fits into being responsible for making something happen).
The reason this is such a crucial part of your recovery is because the doing (behaviour and outcome) is only in direct reflection of the being doing the doing. If someone is being uncommitted or unresponsible for their own recovery, they’re unlikely to eat if the eating disorder is telling them not to.
But someone who is being committed and responsible will eat regardless of whether the eating disorder is telling them not to.
99% committed is hell. 100% committed is simple.
So who do you need to be in order to NOT delay eating?
Structure & Support
Ok so now it’s time to take action and create a POA. I always recommend a structure such as;
breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and dessert daily.
This is until your hunger cues come back and you can eat unrestrictedly by following your mental and physical hunger.
How can you plan these into your day with time frame boundaries such as;
“I will eat breakfast between 7 and 8 am. No exceptions because I am choosing to be committed to recovery. Being committed to recovery will result in me living in food freedom for the rest of my life. I trade short-term discomfort for long-term gain”
“Every time we escape situations that make us anxious, the cost of that short-term comfort is long-term anxiety.”Dr Julie
Any help you are offered, accept it! If you’d like support from someone with whom you live or work with, ASK! I know it can be SO hard to ask for help especially if you have a shit load of shame just for having human needs, but asking for and receiving help is a crucial part of recovery and honouring your needs.
Help from someone else could look like asking them to have breakfast ready for you at a certain time because you don’t want to allow yourself to procrastinate and then ‘run out of time’ before you have to leave the house. It could look like asking them to sort dinner and you making a commitment to eat with them every night and eat whatever they’re eating. At work, it could be asking a colleague or friend to eat lunch with them each day etc.
Anything that you can do to support yourself in your environment is a must. Ensure you actually have food in the house! Different snack options (that are not only rice cakes 😉) ready meals and ingredients to cook.
If you live by yourself and don’t go to a workplace then you will have to hold yourself fully accountable. Some IG accounts offer meal support such as @diets_dont_work_haes1 and @bodyacceptance_coach. You can also lean on free support groups (such as my FB group The Body Love Binge Support Group) for accountability and encouragement. Of course, if finances allow the best path to recovery is to work with a professional 1:1 or in a group environment. I’m here for any of you who would like to explore either of those options. I have a free support group, group coaching (with extended payment plan options) and 1:1 coaching.
Another great idea is to start a daily habit tracker to tick off your regular eating as you go. This can be helpful as many of you will be perfectionists and will not like to have an imperfect habit tracker! Use your traits to your advantage because everything that enabled you to develop the eating disorder is exactly what will get you out of it. Put this somewhere visible and celebrate yourself every time you eat regularly.
What to eat?
If you have trouble deciding what to eat which is very common and can lead to overwhelm and panic, you can use a name generator or an online spinning wheel to help you. You can put in say 2-5 different options that you have available and let the name picker or spinner choose for you.
This leads me to self-talk and self-celebration. Acknowledging yourself for facing your fears is ESSENTIAL. We learn through positive reinforcement and that includes from ourselves. If we only focus on what we didn’t do well then that will create more feelings of failure and it’s then challenging to stay focused on recovery.
For example, instead of this;
“I did have lunch but I didn’t eat it all and I should have chosen the burger instead of the fish dish, I’m such a failure.”
“I’m so proud of myself for eating lunch! I wanted to delay eating until this evening but I am committed to recovery and I want food freedom so I ate it anyway. Next time I’d like to make an even bigger step and choose the burger and commit to eating all of it. I know I can do it!“
Big difference right? Our self-talk is such a crucial aspect of recovery and our lives. The way we talk to ourselves greatly impacts our feelings and our behaviours. Practice being your own biggest cheerleader instead of your own worst critic.
I invite you to come up with some positive encouraging self-talk mantras that are easily accessible when you need them (until you remember them). Mantras such as;
“I can do this!”
“I eat __ at this time and even if I don’t feel like it, I’m going to eat anyway because I’m a badass and I want freedom.”
“The only way to the other side is through.”
“Beyond fear lies freedom.”
“I’ve got this. It’s just food. People eat every day.”
“Whatever it fucking takes. Bring it on!”
In fact, homework assignment if you’re up for it… come up with 100 positive and encouraging things you can say to yourself when the eating disorder wants you to delay eating. 🎉
And of course, I couldn’t talk about self-talk (lol) without bringing up the secret sauce to your recovery and your self-love… do you know what it is?
SELF-COMPASSION! Self-compassion is EVERYTHING. Speak to yourself with kindness, gentleness, and encouragement at all times. It takes practice but the more you reframe your thoughts to those born from love over and over again, it starts to become your default and then it doesn’t take effort anymore. Then your head will be a much lovelier place to live in instead of the current hell that you’ve been trying to run away from for however many years. Which is impossible obviously but trust me, I tried. There was one time I literally wanted to check myself into a psychiatric ward because I was so afraid of my own thoughts.
A great question to ask yourself is; “What would Love say?” and say that to yourself.
Another lovely thing you can do for yourself is write yourself a note of celebration every evening. Say what you’re proud of yourself for that day and how much you appreciate yourself for your efforts. You know that love you have by the bucket load to give to others…? Well, give some of that to yourself! Through words of affirmation, acts of love and most importantly BEING self-loving. You can do an action of self-love but if you’re not BEing self-loving then it’s not going to make much of a difference.
The ultimate question is; “What am I more committed to? Recovery or the eating disorder?” And then act accordingly.
Constantly connect to your why. Listen to your recording. Feel it as if it’s already true… it’s ok to allow yourself to go there my love. It’s ok to want more for yourself and it’s ok if you worry that you’ll never get there. Just imagine and feel. If you can envision it then you can hold it in your hand because you’re only remembering the future.
Surround yourself with others who are cheering you on and who have walked this path before you. Before you know it, you’ll be doing the same for others…
YOU’VE GOT THIS!
Q & A
I also wanted to share a random Q&A from an email I received as I think it will be of value to some of you…
“There are some evenings (usually after eating / drinking a lot the previous evening) when physically I really don’t feel like eating and drinking my same exact foods and drink that night. But I feel compelled to do it anyway! Why??“
ME: Because you want what you need. you’re malnourished and your body needs more food.
“I have even felt a bit sick and still done it. To me this would seem like the perfect opportunity to do something different and yet I don’t. I am guessing that it’s something to do with the feeling of comfort that comes with the same old familiar pattern and the association I have created between the food, drink and feeling relaxed? So then…I need to learn that I can relax and it not be coupled with food & drink? But then that comes back to the…phone a friend, have a hot bath list which my mind tells me is nowhere near good enough.”
ME: Your body is scared that it won’t get enough food and so whilst food is available, it will get it in regardless. you can only seek comfort from other things as well as food when you’re eating unrestrictedly and you’re back to full health and vitality (your natural set point weight). you feel relaxed when eating because you’re meeting a survival need… fuel. learning to “relax” without food when you’re undereating is impossible bc your body is in a stress response. restriction is very traumatic to the body.
“I would love to have some hot, more tasty food but my fear of doing this is that it would all be over too quickly (20 mins) and then that’s the pleasure all gone and nothing left to look forward to.”
ME: What’s stopping you from following your body’s cravings here and eating more hot food AND then whatever else you want for pleasure?
“I have even wondered whether I might have OCD and / or autistic traits because there are other things in the ritual that “have” to be just so…e.g. I have to be freshly showered before I eat (even if only had a shower 5 hours before and still clean), sit in same place on sofa, laptop at my side (usually reading about personal dev, ED, alcohol), same cold foods (chicken and stacks of different veggies / salad), cut up really small in same place on the same plate.”
ME: Potentially (did you have similar traits before the ED?) but this is ALL ED behaviour. the cleanliness, control, “just so.” I had it too.
Thank you for being here. If you’d like support, I’ve got you. ❤️