Strategies to Help You Change
There are several other strategies that helped us and help our clients make changes. You can try these and see if one or more work to help you. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it has to work the first time you try it. It might take a few times for a certain technique to help. You will learn from trying. Some of these tips are also included in other Keys. Skip anything you find redundant but sometimes reading things again can serve as a helpful reinforcement.
Tips for change:
1. Write an Eating Disorder Self/Healthy Self dialogue before engaging in the behavior.
Go over the information in Key 2. Remember that when doing this assignment it is important to note that you are asked to write the dialogue before engaging in the behavior rather than instead of engaging in it. We do not care if you do engage in the behavior at this point. You might stop the behavior but the main point here is to get access to the part of you that wants to do the behavior and the part that would like to stop.
2. Communicate with at least three people before engaging in the behavior.
When you have to reach out to others, chances are this will bring your Healthy Self forward, so already it is giving the Eating Disorder Self the backseat, even if only for a few moments. When you call people or text them, they might be able to distract you long enough to get through your urge even if they do not know why you are calling. You can also tell them exactly why you are reaching out. It can be particularly useful to let certain people know ahead of time that you might reach out to them when you are trying to stop an eating disorder behavior. Just talking to, or being with people can help, but sometimes the people in your life have a number of really good things to say that might help you see the circumstances differently.
3. Journal or write a letter to yourself or someone else before the behavior.
People are not always going to be there for you, so it is good to learn how to use your journal and yourself as a therapist or best friend. Getting things out on paper can distract you and can inform you. If you are anxious, this is especially helpful as it helps calm down your amygdala, the part of your brain that experiences anxiety.
4. Set a timer to delay the behavior.
This is a great tool to help you get successive control of a behavior. For example, if you are trying to stop bingeing, you can take a small step by using your cell phone or a kitchen timer and when it goes off you can then go binge if you still want to. You can gradually increase the amount of time you set on the timer to 10 minutes, then 30 minutes, and you will find that you can delay a binge this way for longer periods of time. Often, after a long enough delay, the urge lessens or simply goes away. We have known people who used this technique and ending up successfully stopping bingeing. The key is that you are in control, and no one else is making you do it. But start with a small amount of time.
Even if you are tempted, do not try 20 minutes right away. You will be more successful if you start small and work up to longer time periods.
5. Use a transitional object.
A transitional object is a term that was originally developed in relation to childhood attachment. The term was used to describe an object that would substitute as a stand-in for a mother’s presence when she was not around. For example, a baby blanket or a pacifier are both used as transitional objects that serve to soothe and comfort babies, reminding them of their mother’s presence. We have found that it helps to have a small item or transitional object that we can give our clients to have and use outside of our sessions as a sort of link or connection to us and the work we are doing together. We use various transitional objects with our clients such as rocks, sea glass, crystal hearts, key chains, or any number of things, and they can have words written on them or not. The transitional object represents or holds the therapeutic connection, helping clients stay in touch with information discussed in therapy, goals they set, or commitments they made. You can even make your own transitional object using something that would be meaningful to you and could help you stay connected to your goals. One client made a key chain with the word choice on it, after a session where we discussed the idea that engaging in her eating disorder behaviors was actually a choice. Another client took a small rock from the fountain outside the therapy office because it reminded her of her Healthy Self that would become most present during her sessions. Many clients have used angel, goddess, or some other cards with beautiful quotes written on each one. During difficult times, you can either randomly pick a card, or find one that feels right and carry it with you so you can pull it out and read it when you need a reminder.
Clients describe their experiences.
I use the heart you gave me every singe day now. When I wake up I hold it for a few moments to remind myself that I’m going to stay open and not close down for fear of being hurt. I carry it in my purse or my pocket and if I feel like I’m starting to shut down, which leads to restricting, I get it out and go over the things we discuss in session and how I do not want to keep doing the same old thing. I never thought it would help this much, it is like having a piece of your heart with me.
I just tried using the rock you gave me and can’t believe how it made me feel. I thought about how we chose it together because it was solid and strong and yet smooth and nice to touch, like me. I was mad at my mom about something she did and I just wanted to binge and purge. Then I remembered the rock . hard, solid, smooth, strong, but nice. I remembered my promise to at least hold the rock before doing anything. So I went to get it and the weird thing is as soon as I held it, I felt your presence. I felt all the feelings I have in sessions when I’m telling you how much I do not want to binge and purge anymore. Until I got the rock in my hand I didn’t feel that way.
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