The #1 effort that makes the difference between staying stuck in disregulated eating and climbing—and staying—out of it is what you do in the moments when you have a choice to make about food. Shall I eat or not? Shall I eat this or that? Shall I continue eating or stop now? Here are a few tips to help you make smarter choices.
First off, remember that you must struggle in the moment to change your habits. You must do the new, healthy behavior more than the old, unhealthy behavior to transform your overall eating patterns. It’s not enough to do the old behavior sometimes and the new behavior other times. Shifting back and forth will only keep you stuck. When you’re in the throws of making choices, whether we're talking a lengthy debate with yourself or a split-second decision, you need simple techniques for making wisest move.
Make up a file card (maybe do a few) with all the reasons you want to eat “normally” or the reasons you don’t want to eat when you’re not hungry, eat unhealthy foods, or overeat. Carry it around with you and make it accessible—better yet, prominent—in your kitchen. Include a few words or phrases such as, “Is this a wise choice?”, “What’s best for me to do?”, or “Weigh the pros and cons here,” to consider at any point you’re a making food decision. Stopping to think wakes up your brain and takes you off autopilot. On the card, include responses to the eating disordered part of you that insists, “But I want it now,” I don’t care about later,” I know I shouldn’t, but…” Or, “I can’t help myself.” Baloney, you can and you must!
If you really want to get creative and make a statement, it sounds corny, but make a sock puppet for your eating disorder and give her a name. Keep her around for when you’re struggling about what/when/how much to eat. Let her speak the thoughts that are driving unhealthy thinking. Or make two sock puppets, one for the wise you and the other for the unwise you and debate it out (til the wise you wins!).
At the very least, don’t keep silent about your thoughts but say them aloud. Why? Because you don’t pay much attention to the smart thoughts you have. Your eating disordered thinking generally drowns them out. Make your constructive thoughts strong and clear by speaking them aloud. Take a stand that reinforces that you will not allow yourself to make unwise choices and hurt yourself with food. Speak forcefully until the eating disordered thoughts retreat. You can do this. It’s not rocket science. But you have to fight the good fight if you want to win the battle.