Healing Bulimia and Addictive Eating (Part 2) - Christine Kane

General Healing Ideas

If I look back on the big picture of getting over bulimia, I see it as a melding of many pathways and mindsets and prayers and people. Nothing linear about it. I can’t say what someone else’s path will look like. Mine was littered with wreckage and ruin at first. And I started cleaning it up. Then someone would come along and help me with a few of the pieces. And then the path would converge with another path and there would be velocity and lightness. Then I’d do something completely stupid or unconscious or addictive. And darkness would descend again, and I’d feel isolated and alone, picking up pieces I thought I’d already picked up. Then an unexpected breakthrough would happen. And I’d look around with a new perspective and begin again.

The six ideas below were present in a big roundabout way throughout this process. They are still present, only some of them are now at a different level or with a different consciousness, now that I no longer engage in the old behavior or mindsets.

As I mentioned in Part 1, the following ideas are not steps or how-tos. They are ideas, which point in a direction. The ideas in this post point in a very general direction. The next post will contain more specific ideas. I’ll conclude with ideas that apply to people who have moved past the initial stages of healing bulimia.

Idea #1: Intent

I’ve written about intent over and over again. Click and read the posts.

How intent applies to bulimia and compulsive or addictive eating is this: You have to want to not be bulimic anymore. You have to want to not be destructive to yourself with food anymore. You have to want to stop the perpetual hell of compulsive exercise or dieting or whatever it is you do to yourself. Even if your intent is simply, “I don’t want to live like this anymore. I can’t take the insanity. I want to love myself more than I want to diet,” that is enough. It’s a start.

My intent began (though I didn’t know it at the time) when I graduated from college, and I wrote letters to God in my journal every night when I got home from my first (and only) 9 – 5 job. I was unhappy. I wanted to expand and grow and let go of the craziness of this addiction. Again, I had no idea what I was doing at the time, or what my life would end up looking like. But ultimately, writing that nightly “prayer” made me so clear. And as Lenedra Carroll says in one of my favorite books, “Clarity is very compelling to the universe.” I don’t think there was a choice about it once I started those letters. I had to heal.

I’ve met lots of women with eating issues. I’m amazed at how few of them will actually set the intent to heal. More often than not, they have resigned themselves. Or they take medications, which never work in the long run. They seem to not want to change their lives. Mildly and dully miserable is easier than uncomfortably going through deep shifts and facing your own stuff. I’ll quote the great AA line here: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.

Commit to healing. Set intent. Yes, it may mean that your life falls apart. But it won’t happen in a way you can’t handle. It will happen organically. As you heal, things that no longer serve you will go away. That’s all. (For me, this happened pretty rapidly. But I was ready. And I asked for it.) The simple act of getting clear and committing oneself will open up doors and bring about opportunities that are just waiting to be had. This is the grace that comes from intent.

Idea #2: The Question of Therapy

When I was in college, my roommates caught me stealing food points. (I was burning through mine at an embarrassing pace, and I had to figure out how to keep bingeing.) They reported me (and my bulimia) to the RA. I was required to see a campus therapist or be kicked out of my dorm.

The therapist was a man. Not only did he never have an eating disorder, but I’m pretty sure he never had emotions either. He was a kind person, but not the person to help a nineteen year old through this level of shame and grief and addiction.

I stayed pretty far away from therapy after that experience. It wasn’t until I started working with a great healer (a licensed massage therapist with no degree in psychology) in Asheville, four years later, that I really got the power of wisdom versus the mental level of therapy.

The reason I don’t often recommend therapy is this: Most women with eating issues or bulimia are very smart. They know what it’s about. They know their past. They know their emotions. What they don’t know is how to stop obsessing and thinking about it all the time. This is why therapy often keeps them stuck.

What you focus on persists. If you consistently focus on your past, your parents, your old patterns, then you may be spinning your wheels. If you’re in therapy or if you choose to begin therapy, I would highly recommend coupling it with alternative healing work so that your body begins to get stronger and aids your mind in creating new and more appropriate responses and patterns.

Idea #3: Alternative Healing

I can’t stress enough how powerful alternative healing was for my recovery. It was imperative. Acupuncture remains my #1 choice, and I still go once or twice a month, even though I have very few health issues anymore.

The reason acupuncture works so well with eating disorders is because so much damage has been done to the system. Binge eating, purging, diuretics, dehydration, sugar, salt, and excess leave the body depleted and very low on energy and blood. Trying to heal bulimia without addressing this weakened system is virtually impossible. Your organs have a huge impact on your emotions and mental functions. If you have severely damaged the spleen and pancreas, for instance, then you’ll have a hard time transforming tears into awakenings. It makes it harder to set new patterns and process thoughts if the organs are in this level of stress. Acupuncture allows your body to use its own energy so that you heal yourself. It re-teaches your own body to function optimally.

The biggest complaint I hear about alternative therapies is that you have to do them consistently. You have to commit yourself to regular visits. It’s not a quick fix. But here’s the thing: you’ve been engaged in this unhealthy behavior for 10, 20, even 30 years that’s going to take some time to un-do. As much as you want to think it away, it won’t go like that. It will begin to release with some consistent action and attention to deep healing on your part.

Idea #4: Creativity

When I began to write songs, I began to learn how to keep myself company. I got lost in this new discovery of silence and tinkering and moodling, and all the raucous joy that would arise (and still does) in those musical moments.

Women with eating issues are creative women. Often they are artists. They need to express themselves. Sometimes I wonder if the simple act of taking a pottery class wouldn’t eliminate the need for all the other stuff I’ve written about here.

It’s been reported that Americans don’t have hobbies anymore. In our American Idol consciousness, we don’t recognize the joy of getting lost in writing a poem, even a bad poem. Some of my happiest moments are when I’m drawing or making a collage. I’m seriously bad at visual art. But I love it because I can let myself do it badly. I can get lost in it without judgment.

Making something just for the sake of making something is powerful healing. Make a greeting card. Draw a picture. Play your guitar or piano for an hour. Creative ventures are powerful and will take you to territories that are so much richer and wilder than the spectacle of American Idol, which is only about trying hard to be something special for 12 minutes.

Be special to yourself forever. Make art. If you don’t have anyone to send it to, send it to me. If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Idea #5: Trees, Woods, Oceans and Sky

Soon after I moved to Asheville, two of my new friends dragged me on a hike. I hated it. I didn’t like the up hill stuff. I dreaded not knowing what was around the corner. Then, I went on a hike that felt sort of fun. It was different. What I know now is that it was in a forest that hadn’t previously been logged. It had an untouched wild feel to it. I went back. And I kept going back. During my first year of healing bulimia, I hiked about five times a week on that same trail. I got to know nature. I learned about the beauty of winter stillness, as well as the awesome blooming of spring.

We are an indoor culture now. Our feet touch concrete and floor, never grass or dirt. Trees, breezes, leaves, mud, streams are all about life and energy and flow. You need life energy and flow in your body. We’ve lost touch with it. And we’re not meant to lose touch with it.

Get back in touch. It will heal you. Take walks. Go outside. Find a park or a hike or a lake. Start a garden. Observe. Sit down on a big rock. Have an adventure day. Be in it.

I now have a deep relationship with that same trail. I still hike it regularly. (The YMCA, who owns the property, clear cut 25 of its acres, which grieves me to no end.) I know every ladyslipper and galax bloom in the spring, and every aster in the fall. I talk to the trees. I feel like it has held me through vast pain and shown me the depth of awareness. It is why I wrote the song Everything Green.

Nature heals. Give it that chance.

Idea #6: Prayer

Yes, I pray. Very unconventionally, but daily. My healing took on a powerful velocity when I started praying.

When I pray, I don’t ask for “stuff.” Even when I was a kid, I didn’t ask for “stuff.” I just knew that wasn’t gonna do it. I don’t think God gives a hoot who wins a football game or if you get an agent. I pray with knowing. I use affirmative prayer. If I ask for anything, I ask for my own shifting of perspective. Sometimes the best prayer is simply, “Help.”

I’ll write a whole blog on prayer at some point. Until then, I recommend Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love. I also recommend her book Illuminata if you don’t know what to pray. Iyanla Vanzant’s One Day My Soul Just Opened Up was instrumental in teaching me the power of prayer. I also used to read one of Julia Cameron’s prayers from her book Blessings out loud each day.

  • muddy otter

    Hi Christine and everyone!

    I have been reading your posts and coming to shows for ages… I definitely love your perspective and wisdom! I was bulimic in college and hiking and time in nature definitely helped me stop. I come from a family of very very large women so although it’s hard for me to keep it much below ‘festively plump’ I’ve found that committing to prayer and exercise and accepting that I will never look like a fashion model can be very healing. Especially when my 185-lb bod and I can train and finish a 70-mile canoe marathon, or get lost puttering in my little garden. 🙂

    I do want to add a word on therapy and medication though. I am very sad to hear that you had a bad experience with your therapist and glad you found someone with the wisdom and perspective to help you. But to echo a bit of what Anne said about therapy I have to say that therapy and antidepressants quite literally saved my life. I would VERY much agree that you have to find the RIGHT therapist, someone you can trust and ‘click’ with. But the right therapist will not keep someone mired in the past–rather, they will guide you to the point where you can say ok, I’ve gone through these things and it’s left me with these automatic defensive/angry/despondent attitudes, but how do I WANT to approach things?– and they will very much guide you in re-tuning your thinking.

    I remember reading an interview with someone where they said that for them, therapy was like realizing that we all start out in life carrying around a backpack that was essentially stuffed with other people’s attitudes, reasoning, issues, etc and in therapy, you take all those things out, look at what you’ve been carrying and where it came from, and start making some conscious decisions about what YOU want in there, and what direcion you WANT to be travelling. I think so many people feel so much shame and guilt from the ‘muggle’ world about getting to the point where they even feel the need to ask for help that it might not be a good thing to make them feel guilty if they get to the point where alternative approaches, while life changing in many ways, still can’t get you to the bottom of things. Not all therapists take this approach but it’s worth looking for one who does.

    I have to reluctantly say the same thing about medication. I refused to take it for over 20 years, very much committed to the holistic/alternative approach. Eight years ago, after more than 20 years of struggling with depression so overwhelming that I almost flunked out of college, then grad school, was fired from a job and in danger of losing another one, my therapist said, look, why don’t you just try this for a few months. I was terrified that I’d become a zombie, lose my creativity, and betray all the organic principles I’d tried to live by. I was completely against it and convinced it wouldn’t work but I was at the point where I was so overwhelmed, exhausted, and terrified of why this kept coming back again and again that I agreed. In 8 years I have not had a single depressive episode and the terror of sinking into that again has finally ebbed. I’m still writing and hip-deep in all sorts of creative projects.

    I am ALL for doing what is holistic and alternative whenever possible (my husband devoutly wishes that I would quit trying to coax him into eating tofu and vegetables and learn to fry a chicken properly). But I think in some cases, the chemical imbalances can be analogous to being diabetic. Taking insulin won’t help you if you’re not watching your diet and exercising–and for some people the condition can be controlled by vigilance and discipline alone. But if your chemistry has gotten to the point where this can’t restore you to health, why would you feel ashamed about taking insulin?

    I very much believe that alternative therapies are a godsend, but I like the British approach–a lot of their doctors (at least on the BBC web site) are writing more and more that the best of healing is complimentary, and not oppositional when it comes to incorporating alternative and traditional care. To paraphrase one of their doctors, I don’t plan to stop meditating, exercising and eating a healthy diet, but if I’ve got cancer, I might not be opposed to having the tumor surgically removed.

    I would say that my experience has very much been that alternative and organic care of the body is the invaluable foundation, and that mind, spirit and body thrive when properly nourished and tended. And I VERY much appreciate and admire ALL you’ve done to bring so much of your own experience and struggle into the open. But I’d want to add that, while it may take some searching, it’s possible to find traditional care practitioners whose approach can be very complimentary to alternative care, and there are times when their care can make an invaluable and equally-life changing difference.


  • christine

    Thanks Kailani!

  • Kailani

    What a great personal account of what you went through. It’s so brave of you to share your experiences!

    Here via Carnival of Family Life.

  • christine

    Hiya ChickiePam! Thanks for your thoughts and insights. (I bit my nails for years. And I just revisited the habit a few weeks ago!) Glad your smiley (we here at christinekane.com prefer the term “smiley,” as opposed to the word “emotocon.” That’s WAY too technical!)

    Hi Holly! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  • Holly Schwendiman

    Thanks for sharing such great ideas. There is nothing more difficult, moving and effective then sharing our personal lives, triumphs, miseries, failures and victories. Bravo!

    Holly’s Corner

    Here via the Carnival of Family Fun ;o)

  • ChickiePam

    It worked! It changed after I sent it. Cool stuff!

  • ChickiePam

    Hi Christine,
    So I just sat here and read all 3 in your series on bulemia. That’s a very serious topic. Immediately following is talk about emotocons! I’m still chuckling over that. 😉 We’ll see if it works for me.

    As usual, I love reading your blogs. Very insightful. Never was a binger or a purger and I’m certainly not anorexic; no drinking disorder, no drugs (but I did bite my nails for a long time!) and I still find what you have to say as timely and worth the read. Thanks for being in my life and for writing your words. I believe that there is only one of us here, so although my life issues are “different” from yours, they are really the same…. with just another name. It’s all about self worth and learning to love oneself. My goal is to be as nice to me as I am to others.

  • christine

    okay. that last try didn’t work.

  • christine

    we are all growing and changing together. it’s like an episode of the brady bunch. :-0

  • mary katherine

    PS to get the winky one use a semicolon and the close parenthesis. The smile and the wink are the only ones I know. Oh wait I might know how to do a frown – let’s test it out. 🙁

  • mary katherine

    Good work you techno folks! 😉

  • Susie

    Yea for the smiley face! I think mabye it only works if you add it after some text, like at the end of this sentence 🙂

  • christine

    Holy moly! I did the smiley face! Look at me! I’m technical! 🙂

  • christine

    Hi Karen…Thanks so much for your thoughts and kind words. I’ve only seen Joel Osteen’s books in various airport bookstores as I pass by. I’ll keep an eye out. If you haven’t read any of Cheryl Richardson’s stuff, I highly recommend her, too!

    Heya Barb, Yes, it seems lots of us are flummoxed by the enigmatic yellow smiley face. Life has somehow lost its appeal without figuring that one out, I’m sure! Thanks for the thoughts on poetry and nature. It’s obvious in your poetry that you are very healed by all things nature-y. 🙂

  • barb

    I always fine that nature heals. It has been a part of my lfe just about longer than my being a “group” person if only a little. I remember listening to the wind a a white pine tree and writing a poem which will never see the light of day. but writing also gives me a release. I couldn’t write about alcohol when I was getting out of that rut but as time has passed, I have written several poems. susie echoed some of the lines in my poem “not smart enough” “not good enough” “not enough.” I much prefer going it alone (but that is me) rather than going to AA. It seems that most of those folks were looking down and I had already been there and needed to go up. As you said, one has to want to make the change and then go where that leads you. on a lighter note, I can’t do these yellow faces either and I barely know what dancing with the stars is. kinda like American Idol. take care and thanks for your post.

  • Karen

    Thank you for allyour wonderful thoughts and ideas Now I am reading you all the time You have been a great help I am doiwnloading your posts and poutting them in a notebok
    I ddi listen tothe Cheryl Richardson/Geneen Roth tape Thank you I ahve all Geneen s books I probably followed her for years way back when but when it comes to those damn workbood=ks I am really stuck
    I am working on the Joel Osteen Heal your life journal and it iis the hardest thing I think Ihave done in a long time Iahve been working on it close to a year I ahve read his bood and gone over a million tapes and cd’s and Dvd’s and watch his shwo twice a week Are you familiar with him.
    I think he is like the Lord in disguise He alwasy has the right thing to say and I hold everything he says in the hight regard
    If you havent listend to him try to make some time to hear him He is with Lakewood community church in Houston and he is on TBN
    Much love

  • Dblwyo

    Gee, I got a smiley both ways. Maybe your ASP likes me better ? You’ve got the switches turned off or you really are pulling our chains. Funny in any case. 😉 😀

  • Dblwyo

    Unblivbel… just feel off my chair laughing. Test: does : + ) = 🙂 ? How ’bout : + – + ) = 🙂 ?.

    Not to mention you’re using the ‘ringenel emoticons from old Unix days….

  • christine

    now i’m feeling left out.


  • christine

    it didn’t work.

  • christine


  • Susie

    OK, now I’m confused. I typed both the same way but I only got one yellow smiley face…hum, technology?

  • Susie

    That’s OK, I don’t really know either, but the colon, dash and parenthesis still got the point across! 🙂

  • Dblwyo

    O.K. I’ll byte – if my/our chains aren’t being pulled just a bit. More than you ever wanted to know on emoticons, history, cultural anthropology and usage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emoticons 🙂 . That was created by typing : followed by ) and letting your site do the work as a ‘feature’.

    Meanwhile I’m really looking forward to your blakisms – as the motivation, intent and joy seem to me to be the heart of recovery.

    And while everyone ultimately has to find, create and walk their own paths it’s greatly encouraging to find others who have and to take leads and guidelines from them.

  • christine

    Hi Dave, Thanks for your poignant thoughts. And yes, I too think these ideas are a broader perspective than bulimia recovery… but that’s the gift of having gone through any challenge. You ultimately find universal truths when you can jump out of your “story.” As far as taking the next step(s) and staying persistence…you’re right…that’s the hard work. But again, watch your language there. Focusing on the “hard” will make it worse. Focus instead on commitment to the unfoldment of joy. (or something a little less william blake-y sounding!) I’ll be writing more on this in the final post of this series. The maintenance stuff!

    PTC…Lord, I don’t even know what dancing with the stars is. But i do like sara evans.

    Hi susie…and thanks! The thing about eating disorders is that at the core they’re about self-worth…which many people struggle with. I’m glad you found the trees, too. (and my song!) I look forward to getting gifts of art! =] (is it okay to admit that I really and truly do not know how to make those yellow smiley faces appear?)

  • Susie

    I’ll have to ditto what everyone else has said that your advice is very deep and powerful and that these words of wisdom are a great path for all healing. I haven’t struggled with an eating disorder, per se, but I have gone through phases where I’ve struggled to find self-worth. I can’t remember how many times I’ve felt “down and beaten” (nor do I wish to remember those times) and have later found myself wondering through the woods, observing the trees, listening to the birds and just being still next to a creek. It was the times that while I was in nature that I felt the best and wanted to search for other things that brought me joy; including your song, “Everything Green” I love it! Thanks for your words of wisdom, I might just have to return the favor and send in some artwork down the road…

  • Palmtreechick

    Yes, Sara Evans was on dancing with the stars. They said she’s having trouble doing the routines because she is such a creative person/artist that she never does the same thing twice. Thought you might be able to related to that given your creativity.

  • Dblwyo

    Christine – your guidelines cover more ground than you credit, at least to my mind. They remind me a bit, though far less rigid and more as ‘principles/principals 🙂 “, of the various 12-Step programs (BtW – my mom founded a multi-country mental center from nothing in a very conservative part of the country so my exposure was pretty broad). To paraphrase you though – one has to commit, learn to listen to oneself, see the broader patterns in life and nature and let a quiet mind lead you to the best of yourself. Fair ? About 95% of our decisions occur in our unconscious – what James called the ‘apperceptive’ mass – meaning those accumulated rules of thumb we build up over time and experience. To change those is, to my mind, the most difficult thing in the world and worthy of what the Buddhists sometimes call the “Warrior Way”.

    With that strawman to pivot from the two questions I suspect many of us have is how to put one foot in front of the other – that is keep on going after getting started ? And to find some faith that the little efforts will add up to changes that are significant over time ? There are no magic answers as in fix it now. Paradoxically there is a 1-step magic answer but it’s hard…hard…hard.

    Think this is the (a) right track – care to comment ?

    p.s. – fyi at 6’3″ and 275 I’m the opposite of bulemic but like I said your advice is more powerful and broad than you credit.

  • christine

    Heya PTC, Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I sense that you are quite intelligent! Just be sure to follow it through to that deeper wisdom. I didn’t see Sara Evans dance… I’m not even sure what you’re talking about? Was this on TV? (I don’t have TV…so I miss everything like this!)

    Hi Anne, What you wrote reminds me of one of my favorite books…Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I know what you mean about those great gifts in nature. I was performing outdoors this past weekend, and I was about to start singing a song for the encore, and I totally broke in on it and shouted, “Hey look! A lizard!” before I could realize that there was an audience right there. Anyway, thanks for your writing!

  • anne

    Hi Christine,
    Your posts are extremely powerful and I imagine many people finishing reading them with tears and hope….
    I have never had an eating disorder, but I did go through a tough childhood from which I needed to heal. An essential part of that healing process was therapy, swimming and long, quiet times sitting on the shore of a New England lake, or laying on a warm rock by the side of a noisy mountain stream. I never felt so peaceful as I did looking out over that glassy lake at the reflections of the brilliant New England foliage – and seeing an occasional trout break the surface and Osprey hunting or beavers busying themselves with being beavers. It was a magical place that at once made me feel small and also part of something big and beautiful. It’s huge. And I don’t think I could have come through the other side without it. And I’m not sure I could keep growing without it.
    The swimming part, I imagine is a lot like yoga (I have never done yoga)….while you are scooting up and down and up and down the pool, you can focus very intently on your muscles and your body movement and your breathing, or at times you can let your mind wander a little and take in some of ‘yourself’.

    Another great post.

  • Palmtreechick

    I love your “issues 2” section because you’re right, people with eating disorders are very smart. My life coach always says to me “you’re very smart. You could outsmart any doctor.” (Okay, I just made it sound like I think I am very smart too. Not the case.) We know what we’re doing. We know what we need to do to change and what we’re doing isn’t always the best thing, and like you said, we KNOW we are obsessing and thinking about it all the time but we DON’T KNOW how to stop! You got that right, Christine! You just hit the nail on the head completely with that section. Love it!

    You rock! Hey did ya see Sara Evans dance the other night? She did well.