Change Your Environments
Your Inner and Outer Worlds Affect Your Mental & Emotional Health
Ever wonder why some people become addicts (aka eating disorder) while others do not?
No single factor can predict if you will become addicted to food.
That means you weren’t destined to have an eating disorder just because your Mom or Aunt did.
The risk for addiction and eating disorders are influenced by a number of factors including your biology, your social environment, and age or stage of development.
The more risk factors you have, the greater the chance that you may develop an addiction, but there is nothing for certain. For example:
Biology. Your genetics––in combination with environmental influences––account for about half of the vulnerability to develop an addiction. Additionally, your gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may influence your risk for addiction.
Environment. Your outer environment includes many different influences, from family and friends to socioeconomic status and lifestyle. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, stress, and parenting can greatly influence the escalation to addiction. As for your internal environment, your ability to manage and deliberately choose your thoughts, feelings and attitudes can influence whether you develop an addiction and your ability to overcome it.
Development. Genetic and external environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in your life. Because our young brains are still developing in the areas that govern decision making, judgment, and self-control, adolescents may be especially prone to risk-taking behaviors, including drug use, reckless driving, sexual promiscuity and delinquent behaviors. Often the earlier we develop an addiction, the harder it is to overcome it.
Become Aware of Your Environments
While you may have a genetic propensity towards an eating disorder, there is evidence that just because it’s in your genes doesn’t mean you will ever develop one. The way I’ve heard it described is that genetics loads the gun and the right mix of environment pulls the trigger.
What I want you to become aware of at this point is the impact your inner and out environments are having on your life. Our world has a way of growing up around us like the roots of a tree grow around a rock in the ground. Little by little the web of our life is woven and it’s only when we step back and look at what’s really around us do we become aware of it the web.
I recommend you to take a look at your environments. Start to pay more and more attention to what you’re allowing to influence you. The areas of your life I suggest you consider are:
– Friends and Family. Who are you allowing into your inner circle? What influence do they have upon you? How much power do you have in these relationships? Is there a healthy balance of love and support?
– Work and School. What are your relationships like with the people at work or school? Are you empowered and supported by your co-workers, boss, teachers or classmates?
– Physical Environments. Does you home make you feel good or bad? Are there triggers or reminders of your addiction around you every day? Is your bedroom a sanctuary or a prison? Does your office calm you or stress you out?
– Thoughts, Feelings and Attitudes. Is your inner environment – the one between your ears and within the senses of your body – healthy and uplifting or negative and neglected? Do you trust every thought as truth or do you act on your own free will and act deliberately against negative thoughts and feelings? Do you let your mind spiral into negative thoughts or can you stop it when it’s getting started and turn it around?
What you’re doing is creating a benchmark for your recovery journey. Where these environments are currently is just “what is”. Your work in recovery is to start to adjust what’s not working for you in each of these areas. And keep in mind you cannot work on just the outer or just the inner environment – you will want to address both areas.
I wouldn’t recommend you try changing them all at once or overnight, especially if you’re in the first 90 days of abstinence from bingeing. Some areas can create instant results like removing negative friends or de-cluttering your bedroom. You’ll feel relief immediately. Just take care how much you take on at one time.
Create New Environments
Bulimia recovery and the process you engage in to release yourself from you addiction is in your hands. I encourage you to address the areas of your life that actually trigger you to binge and purge first. Anything you can do to remove triggers and the causes of your addiction early will help you get stronger.
A Few Ideas for Restructuring Your Life
Simplify your day. Too many to-do’s and responsibilities can endlessly draw our energy and leave us empty, frustrated, disappointed, or depressed. The best thing to do in the first 90 days of recovery is to simplify your life. Eliminate all but the essential activities. Be especially light on activities for the first 3 months to allow yourself time to process the changes as you strengthen your resolve.
Addiction recovery experts report that the first 3 months are the most critical to keeping on track. During this time many well-intentioned bulimics have a slip, fall back into pre-treatment habits, or give up under the pressure of cravings and urges that they’re not prepared to cope with.
Nutrition Planning. I strongly encourage meeting with a nutritionist or dietician. Often bulimics have a distorted view of nutrition and what the body needs for adequate health. Even if you think you know, making an appointment to get good advice can help ensure you have a healthy recovery. Your nutritional health and chemical balances have a lot to do with your emotional and mental health, so take care of your body and start with good planning.
Spring Cleaning. What areas in your home, office, car or other physical environment could use some spring cleaning? If they could all use a healthy overhaul, start with the place you spend the most time in – maybe your bedroom – and top to bottom clean it up. Removing things that no longer serve you or simply remind you of your old life will free up your energy to embrace the new things that will start to come to you.
New Friends. Another form of spring cleaning actually. This is often a hard one for people to accept, but once they do and take action they’re always glad they did. Look around at the friends you associate with, even casual acquaintances at the office, or long-time friends and be sure they’re the best match for a non-bulimic person.
Are your friends generally happy and upbeat? Do they embrace change or resist growing? Are they stuck in negative patterns themselves (maybe smoking too much, binge drinking or shopaholics)? Do they feed your negative side by gossiping and accepting your behaviors or are they encouraging you to always be your best?
In short, do the people in your inner circle bring you up or bring you down? If the people in your life suck energy from you then it’s time for them to go. See if you can eliminate them from your life or at least severely limit the amount of time you spend together. The more time you spend with positive, encouraging people the more positive and upbeat your life will be.
Cut or Restructure Family Ties: It can be even more challenging that cutting ties with friends to restructure your family relationships. If you have a close-knit family and some of your relatives bring you down now’s the time to cut ties.
This was especially true for me in recovery. I tried for many, many years to rebuild the relationship with my Mom. Working on this that and anything I could to accommodate a very negative situation. I could never seem to do things right in her eyes, so I finally came to realize that seriously limiting my time to her was actually healthier for me.
Removing ties with my parents turned out to be exactly what I needed to live a healthier, more fulfilled life. It’s not for everyone, but if there are family members who negatively influence you, consider cutting ties until you feel you’re strong enough to have a relationship with them. I first started by limiting the time I spent with my parents and after five years eventually cut all ties.
Strengthen Your Inner Environment. This is a very complex subject that I talk about a lot in my blog, but for now let’s say that your inner game – the conversations you have with yourself, the thoughts you think, the way of being you present yourself to the world from – is one of the most important environments you will evolve.
Recovery is a process that works from the inside out. Your outer environments will support your outward manifestations, but if you think you can get to the recovery finish line without doing some work on your inner self…sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. We don’t experience lasting recovery without taking a good long look at strengthening yourself from within. This inner journey I believe you’ll be on for the rest of your life.
Now you choose – pick one or two environments to clean up in your life right now and go to work. Be aware of your inner and outer environments and start to work from the inside out to make both a healthy, supportive place that encourages a non-bulimic lifestyle.