When in eating disorder recovery, there are a number of factors that can make a real difference to how much progress you make in terms of recovery changes and neural rewiring. I have written about some of these in a separate post but in this post, I wanted to highlight the importance of ensuring that your environment is set up to support you to make recovery positive choices each day and to achieve the rewiring you need so that you really get recovered.
At the end of the day, the environment you are in can really help or hinder your recovery and the ability of your brain to rewire.
Your immediate physical environment (home, work or school and the people around you) and your online environment (social media, websites you browse etc) should be set up so that they will stimulate your brain in the right direction, to help you to choose the recovery positive pathways more easily and smoothly.
Recovery is hard enough as it is. Neural rewiring is incredibly hard work. Allow it to be easier for your brain and ultimately for yourself to get through these tough times by making a few environmental changes, so that the things you see and hear each day and the people around you, all prompt you into necessary recovery positive thoughts and action.
How To Ensure Your Environment Supports You To Rewire In Your Eating Disorder Recovery:
- Fill your house with lots of food. I am talking about calorie dense, yummy foods here too, so you have no excuses not to push yourself and keep eating!
- Put food by your bed, so if you do wake in the night hungry, you can reach for it or you can grab it first thing in the morning to get you on the right, recovery positive track for the day ahead.
- Get rid of any fitness things around the house. Give away or at the very least hide things like trainers or sports clothes and equipment that is likely to tempt you automatically into engaging in those old movement or exercise compulsions.
- Likewise, give away or hide the scales… You are not a number and you don’t need to be triggered by watching the numbers change on a set of scales when those numbers mean nothing in relation to how you are really recovering (mentally).
- Surround yourself by people who are ‘normal’ eaters as much as you can. If you don’t have happy and ‘normal’ eaters at home then go and sit in coffee shops or somewhere, where people are naturally sitting, eating and relaxing. An added benefit here is that social engagement also helps neuroplasticity!
- Put up notes or memes for yourself around the house or in your immediate environment (this might include your screensaver, as another example). These notes or memes can be constant reminders of what you need to do and why for your recovery. Make them personal and meaningful to you so they really do motivate when you are doubting yourself.
- Turn part of your house (in the lounge or maybe your bedroom) into a ‘nest’ that is inviting and cosy, as a sacred and calming space to relax and hunker down with food and perhaps a bit of good old Netflix (other streaming services are available!).
- Clear your social media accounts so that you are not following people who are fitness or dieting influencers or just plain triggering or disordered in their content. Instead follow the eating disorder recovery, body positive or health at every size accounts or just find some accounts about fluffy penguins to look at instead (much more fun I imagine and I am sure penguins don’t care about body weight or shape!).
- It’s tricky but also consider who you spend time with, not just in terms of online, social media, but also in the ‘real world’. Being around people who are into dieting, exercise, body building and generally those heavily influenced by diet culture will be hard when you are trying to forget all those diet culture messages for your recovery and healthy future. If you really can’t stop seeing those people while you are focused on recovery, then see if you can at least ask them not to talk about diet, exercise or weight loss topics in your presence (although if they do and you can ignore it and get on with recovery anyway, then you will be recovery bulletproof!).
- When food shopping, avoid the sections of the supermarket that have the ‘diet products’ or where your usual ‘safe foods’ are located. Instead start frequenting the sections that have the foods that terrify you the most and make yourself buy from them!
There are many more ideas I could probably add to this list and these are just a few off the top of my head.
The key advice here though is to spend some time looking at what is in your environment: offline, online, inside and outside. Take a good environmental survey for yourself and make changes to ensure everything is really set up to optimise your best chances to choose the recovery positive behaviours and foods each and every time… Then just ensure that you then use that environment in the way you intended!