At the start of lockdown in April 2020, research from the Journal of Eating Disorders showed that people with an eating disorder, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, have had a devastating effect.
The research found that:
- 87% of people said that their eating disorder had worsened.
- 30% of people said their symptoms were much worse.
- Lockdown has given them more time to focus on the one thing they are trying to avoid, their eating disorder.
For bulimics, the pressure is mounting, with limited access to their everyday routines to binge and purge. Having family/friends also at home, lockdown can cause immense distress. Or maybe they are living alone and lonely; hence more vulnerable to distress.
Other factors that contribute to the pressures are missing family and friends, lack of exercise, an increase in ‘phone time’ and the social media pressures with the never-ending discussions of food and exercise. This list is never-ending for some.
Where do they go?
With the majority of mental health NHS services limited, people cannot access professional treatment. For many, a reduction in wages or even redundancies, therefore they can’t afford private therapy.
So what is the answer?
Continue what they are doing? Errr… No! With my eating disorders clients, I teach them many techniques to help them focus on how they are going to break their negative patterns, links and triggers. For example:
Learning to introduce mindfulness in everyday life would be an incredibly powerful pathway to give themselves a break from their never-ending mind chatter. It’s all about learning to pay attention, in the present moment, with purpose and nonjudgmentally. It’s as simple as that. Check it out online; there is so much information on practising mindfulness you may be surprised how hugely beneficial it for you.
Emotional freedom technique
Hop onto YouTube and learn the tapping therapy, also known as emotional freedom technique (EFT). This is a simple yet very powerful way to overcome any painful feelings. It’s a fantastic tool to have in your pocket for any negative feelings.
It’s described as acupuncture but without the needles involving tapping on acupressure points on the body while thinking about any negative behaviour, feeling, or habit that you want to change or stop altogether.
Learn how to respond rather than react to stressful situations. We can’t avoid stressful experiences. They’re always lurking around one corner or another. Your goal is to begin to manage your stress skilfully.
A crucial part of this is to be aware of your internal worry, thoughts and stories, as they contribute to your stress. Write down your thoughts and feelings when stressed and use EFT to reduce down these feelings or practice the breathing technique of:
Taking one big deep breath, breathing in through your nose for the count of four down into your stomach. Then breathe out through your mouth to the count of eight. When you breathe out, purse your lips and gently blow like you’re blowing out a candle or bubble. This is a great tool to calm you immediately but remember your stress levels are directly related to your interpretation of an event that triggers the stress.
Bulimia is a secret disease, and people suffer in silence. But now, in this pandemic infused world, they are not only locked within their uncontrollable bulimic merry go round they are also trapped within their four walls, surrounded by food, suffocating in their deadly behaviours.
Kate Hudson-Hall is the author of Bulimia Sucks!, an inspiring, practical book written to empower people to break through the barriers stopping them from taking that first step to freedom from bulimia.