Tip Day Tuesday: Later

So it's time for another Tip Day Tuesday. I didn't get any emails or requests from you guys (please write! My brain is frazzled!), so I came up with one of my strategies for riding out ED urges.

It's so simple, in fact, I can summarize it in one word: later.

So what do I mean by later? I mean that ED urges usually come in the form of now. Purge now. Exercise now. Take the pills now. Skip the meal now. For me, the ED behaviors help me regulate my emotions, especially anxiety and depression. Over the years, I've gotten used to low levels of anxiety and depression, so by the time I start getting urgey, my emotions are pretty much skyrocketing. This means that I want relief NOW. Not later--now.

Of course, the ED works, but only for a short time and only with a very high price tag. Therapists and my parents would probably like me to say that "ED is not an option," but that feels a little bit fake. After all, the ED really is an option. A crappy option, but it's an option. Unless I'm being physically restrained, the ED is an option. So that line of thinking is a no go for me.

What does help me is to think "later." The ED can be an option in an hour or several hours or tomorrow or whenever. For some reason, knowing I have an "out" is calming in and of itself. It lets me know that if I really, truly, utterly can't hack it, then the ED is there. So the ED is an option...just not right now. I need to try other coping skills first.

So I crochet or snuggle the cat or blog or call a friend or text my therapist or (let's face it) swallow a lorazepam and try to ride out the urge. If the urge is still there at the end of the hour/afternoon/evening/whatever, then I delay again.

What I tell myself is this: if using behaviors is really a good idea, it will still be a good idea after my time is up. Also, I should feel comfortable discussing my decision with my family and treatment team. Feeling the strange urge not to tell someone about my new miracle plan? That's the ED and I should probably delay and talk.

It's not foolproof, and it's probably not workable for everyone, but it does help me. The ED helps me get through a difficult moment, and the idea is ultimately to find something else to work in the meantime. I also use a lot of self-talk to remind myself of the downsides of ED and the benefits of sticking with recovery. I won't lie--it's hard work. Much harder than just giving in to the ED and acting out. But I can also hold my head high and look at myself in the eye in the morning when I actively choose recovery.

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Anonymous said...

Ive been a silent reader of your blog for longer than I wish wouldve been neccesary (recovery takes so much longer than I ever thought it would..) and I wanna thank you for this (and many other) posts. Your scientific smorgasbords always help me rationalize things, something ED can really get in the way of on a normal day-to-day basis. And this post.. It reminded me of a saying I heard: Dont live like there's no tomorrow, live to make tomorrow even better. It, too, reminds me to save some to be able to actually enjoy it instead of drowning in it. Living the moment is good, its so good that youre gonna wanna stick around to live more of 'em? I'm babbling, but again, thanks, and keep up the good work. You're inspiring :)

hm said...

Ha ha ha. This is the entire basis for my recovery. I don't want recovery. It sucks. It hurts. But everybody wants me to do it. Sooo... what the hell. I can always go back to my ed if this "recovery" thing turns out to be a crock of ***** after I'm all done- if I never get to that place where I feel better- if the physical and mental discomfort never begins to settle. I sure do know how to lose weight again if I gain all they say to gain and end up feeling like the world's biggest blimp and can never settle into my new body.

Everyone says I'll feel better when this is all over. Everyone says it'll be worth it.

We'll see! If they all end up being wrong, I've got options. In the meantime, might as well give this a try. Pisses me off to think I'm not "strong" enough to recover- so I will keep fighting to prove I CAN do this.

Whether or not it was worth it, whether or not it'll stick for life, I guess I'll find out in another year or two. Bleh.

Anonymous said...

Super helpful, thank you.

I recently heard from my medical doctor that ED is NOT an option AT ALL (due to physical stomach problems as a result of my ED) - as in, it'd be a threat to my life if I continue with behaviors.

When I first heard that, it of course made me panic. As you said, even though my ED is not "supposed" to be an option, it always has been. So, I've been thinking - what can I do to push past urges, given my ED is literally no longer an option (if I want to stay alive and well, which I do). :)

This post helped a lot; this is a great technique. I think I use it a lot already, but thinking out it consciously and doing it more often will, I'm sure, be increasingly helpful.

Thank you so much for your posts - it's the best ED recovery blog out there.


Angela Elain Gambrel said...

I've done this. Some days I will feel like I need to restrict or do other ED-related behaviors, and then I will stop and tell myself to eat and that I can always not eat later. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But for me, the fact that the thought that I have a choice is there is the good thing. In the past, I never felt like I had a choice, that I just had to do what my eating disorder voice said and that was it.

hm - I feel the same way. I keep hearing it will get better and it will be worth it, and I am still waiting...Some days I want recovery, and some days I question it because I don't yet feel that joy or happiness or whatever that other people who are farther along in recovery or are recovered feel, and I wonder what is wrong with me. However, I have to admit that some external stressors not directly related to my eating disorder is making things feel worse. So I still believe that it will get better and I will feel better once I am further along with recovery.

Emily said...

I think this is a great idea, Carrie. It's like taking baby steps towards disobeying ED instead of one, intimidating leap. I mean, I don't know about the rest of the month, but I feel pretty confident about disobeying ED's commands tonight. My kitty is a great therapy kitty!


viviankiki said...

it reminds me of my recent mantra: "it's not for forever, it's just for today"... its helps those supplements/snacks etc go down, thinking I don't have to keep it up, I just have to do it now (and those 'now's do end up adding up... facing them down one at a time).

JJ said...

Agreed, the delay is such a great device. It works because I take comfort in the fact that I know I'm good at losing weight. It will always be there if I want it.
Possible suggestion for Tip Day...I am about half way back up the mountain toward that goal weight. I'm really, really uncomfortable with the ways that my body is changing despite knowing that this is a necessary part of being a healthy person. How do people deal with the needing-new-clothes, getting boobs (sorry!), noticing the shape of your ___(anything) change? Do you throw out your old clothes so they won't be upsetting to you? How do you navigate running with parts that bounce (painfully!)? I'm trying to be as chill as I can be about it but I would imagine that the rate of change would be weird even for someone without an ED.

HikerRD said...

Love this! It's also very liberating to give yourself permission to engage in the behavior--later. It feels like less of a fight. Later allows the urge to pass, and permission may make you back down from your insistent stand.

hm said...

to JJ:
In keeping with Carrie's tip day theme, I'll tell you how I deal with the growing out of my clothes issue...

Every time I can't button another pair of pants/jeans, I (cry, curse, panic, and) stuff it into an ever-growing bag at the back of my closet with every intention of giving all that shit to goodwill so someone can appreciate it... but I'm terrified of taking away permission from myself to do what it would take be ABLE to wear them again... so I tell myself I'm not going to give them away JUST yet... I'll do it... later...

Vanessa said...

I don't think I've ever left a comment but I have been following your blog reguarly since last summer. I can't tell you how much of an inspiration you have become to me. I also love how opinionated you are about eating disorders. You stand your ground and I admire that. Now on to the questions.

How do you work variety into your meal plan.?I have a problem wanting to default into eating the same things from my meal plan that I deemed "safe".

Perhaps I had two biscuits for breakfast one morning. Somehow that becomes the standard for breakfast and it's a real effort (an uncomfortable, scary one) to branch out and try something different for breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner.

I will eat one thing for breakfast, a different thing for lunch and generally the same thing I had for lunch at supper. Rinse and repeat. I know the dangers of falling into eating the same foods, and the dangers of not trying to conquer the anxiety introducing variety causes. I was just wondering if you had any tips for this issue. Is it even a common isssue?

Another question I have is how do you deal with highly stressful days? Whever I'm stressed (most of the time), it's amazing what goes through my mind. Every time I catch a glance of any part of my body (even an arm) I get angry at how fat I look. I know logically that is a reaction to my negative emotions and the stress but do you have any tips for calming down when the whole day feels like a "fat attack."

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. More importantly, thank you for putting so much into this blog.

Anonymous said...

But how do you tell yourself later?! When Ed says only eat two meals a day, how do you not when you know thy you will still gain weight from such little food? I've been restricting the past week but STILL gained - what will happen when i eat 3 meals 3 snacks? I can't tell Ed later!?

Cathy (UK) said...

Anxiety - not body image issues - lay at the heart of my ED (restricting AN with exercise dependence). I was born over-anxious and throughout my life I have had to try to learn to deal effectively and safely with worrying thoughts that spill into my mind and go round and round and round.

Later really IS a useful thing to remember. There ARE alternatives to restricting and exercising myself to oblivion when I cannot deal with my anxiety. One of the most helpful parts of my recovery has been learning anxiolytic techniques that take the place of anorexic behaviours. But I have also had to make radical changes to my lifestyle to avoid known stressors. Some of these stressors seem trivial to other people, but to me they are huge. They cause me to panic horribly.

What is still unfortunate for me is that restricting remains the most potent anxiolytic.

Anonymous said...

LOVE this post! I have never really found any coping strategies that worked well for me, but the concept of just "waiting until later" helps so much with ED thoughts. I think it's because your not actually telling ED no, which can be hard, your just not telling him yes. Inspiring post, as usual!

Anonymous said...

I've also been a silent reader of your blog. For about 2 years now. My ED is very different (mostly compulsive overeating; with some periods of heavy restricting). I'm currently overweight and really struggling with how to get back to my healthy weight without restricting.

What I love about your blog is honesty, openness, and sincerity that really allows others to feel like they are not alone with these ED behaviors that tend to make us crazy. I often take your advice and simply reverse it for my situation. For instance, you put off restricting, exercising, or purging and I try to put off eating when I'm not supposed to (e.g., between meals and/or planned snacks). I really love the notion of giving yourself permission to indulge it later. What a concept to take the pressure off. I have a feeling this might really make a difference in my recovery. Thanks so much for all that you do Carrie!

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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