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Learn to Break the Binge/Purge Cycle


Those who suffer from bulimia struggle with trying to break the binge-and-purge cycle they encounter when under stress.

This cycle occurs when thoughts and emotions overwhelm a person and can lead to behaviors that can seem impossible to stop. Luckily, there are steps you can take to stop the cycle before it spirals out of control.

Discover Your Triggers

One of the most important steps to stopping the binge/purge cycle is to become aware of what triggers your urges to binge and purge. For some people common things like mirrors and even scales can trigger panic and strong emotions. If thinking about numbers or looking at yourself triggers strong emotions of anxiety, consider throwing out your scale and covering your mirrors. Although it may not be possible to avoid mirrors forever, this can temporarily alleviate your anxiety.

If your triggers stem from being bored, lonely or stressed out, it can be helpful to know what makes you feel this way. Avoiding stress is nearly impossible, but if you have a good idea of what causes you the most stress you can learn to better cope with it. Emotions such as boredom or loneliness can be thought of as needs that you can actually meet by doing an activity or connecting with loved ones. Keeping a journal where you can record your triggers can help you to identify stress factors in your life and come up with ways to eliminate them.

Distract Yourself and Ask for Help

Trying to decipher what started you on a binge might not always be possible, and if you are caught off guard by a feeling of overwhelm it is a good idea to have something to help distract you. It can be helpful to distract yourself after a meal or during a triggering event, when you may be the most anxious and concerned about how you will binge and/or purge and when you will be able to do it. Some activities you can try include calling a friend, watching a funny TV show or movie, arts and crafts, going for a walk, playing a game or reading a book. Find something that you love, something that keeps your body and mind busy and that will hold your attention until the urge to binge and purge has passed.

Asking for support can be difficult for those struggling with an eating disorder due to feelings of shame. However, seeking the help of a loved one can be incredibly helpful in avoiding the binge/purge cycle. Consider the people in your life who are supportive of you and your recovery and let them know ahead of time that they are a support person for you. This way when an urge hits, you will be able to call on them. Your support network can work as a distraction for you and help to get you through a cycle by talking to you, going on a walk with you, or by simply listening to you in your time of need.

Learn from Your Past and Plan Ahead

Remember that relapse is part of recovery and learn to accept it as a learning experience. Relapse is not necessarily a bad thing if you can learn from previous cycles. When you have gone through a binge/purge cycle try to examine what happened and where you could have made different choices to stop it from occurring. Take note of what triggered your cycle, and what you did this time that perhaps you did not do the time before. As you become more aware of your triggers and what coping skills work best for you, you will be more likely to stop yourself from acting upon urges.

Lastly, try to plan ahead. It can be quite helpful to bring a little more planning and consistency into your life. Plan out grocery lists and meals ahead of time to make meal preparation less stressful. It can also help to prevent you from getting too hungry and being more likely to binge during the day or week. You can also seek the help of a dietitian to help you come up with a meal plan that works for you. Make sure to reach out to a dietitian that has experience with eating disorders.