Saturday, 1 June 2013

Exposure 'therapy'

You have porbably heard that the more you do something, the more it becomes a habit. People say different things - some say it takes 21 days (3 weeks), some say a few months, and others say a year. However long it takes, it is well-known that things become a habit if you do them more often.

I want to talk about this 'habit-forming' process in terms of thinking and mood, but that is for another post. What this post will talk about is how ED and exposure therapy (or habits) are related.

When I was sick, it was a habit not to eat. At first, this was really hard. I was hungry all the time and my stomach hurt so much. But each day, it got 'easier'. I became less hungry and I stopped thinking about the food that I so desperately missed. Thus, restricting became a habit, and so did my excuses for not eating. 'I am not hungry', 'I ate already', 'I don't like that food', etc. Strangely enough, these are the same phrases that most people with ED say. This suggests that people who are predisposed to ED actually have something similar in that their bodies eventually adapt to the lack of food, turn of their hunger signals (remember the leptin theory?!), and thus, the person loses weight and becomes very ill with ED. So, how does one recover with ED, if their body is attuned to not eating? If my leptin is so high that I never feel hungry, how in the world am I supposed to force myself to eat when I do not want to?! How am I expected to face my worst fears - food, and lots of it - and get myself healthy again?

Think of what you fear most. Spiders, a person, an event, snakes, whatever. Now imagine facing that situation five or six times a day. Scarey, right? This is what I do everyday. I face food in abundant amounts. And I have to eat. It is frightening. But now it is a bit easier. Why?

Habit-forming is the answer. The more you do something, the more you get used to it. Researchers have indeed found that 'exposure' therapy may help those with ED (see

Let me make it easier to understand: when I first started recovery, it was so hard. I was so scared of the food - of any food. And now I had to eat many times a day. How? Exposre. Habit-forming. The more frequently I ate and day after day, it slowly became easier. The first time I fed myself, I was terrified. I cried. I screamed. Literally. I am not kidding. I was hysterical. But, each day after, it slowly (and VERY SLOWLY!) became simpler. Breakfast? Not a problem. Make breakfast, grab a book to read, and eat. Done. Lunch? Same thing. Dinner? Repeat. And the next day, the exposure continued.

I am now at the point when eating is no problem. I know when I need to eat and what I need to eat, and I do it. I'm still struggling though, to be perfectly honest. Sometimes I'm frustrated because I have to eat even when not hungry. Other times I feel so fat that I do not want to put anything past my lips. But I know that I need to build this habit. I need to get my body and brain used to eating again. It's like training a puppy - if you practice with it over and over again, it will learn tricks and manners.

So, there is hope for those with ED. Eating really does get easier. I am proof of it. You CAN do it. The same goes with those without ED. If you have a habit that you really need to learn, expose yourself to it and make it constant in your life. Perhaps you need to wake up at the same each day. Then set your alarm and make yourself get up when it rings. It will become easier. Or perhaps you need to clean your room more often. Force yourself to do it weekly, and soon, it will be no problem. Try this experiment on yourself with something you want to learn to do (or a habit you need to form). It really does work.

So, ED, I outsmarted you again! It's interesting how ED can be so strong, but we are stronger. Faith, patience, strength, support, and determination. Recovering from ED is possible, one bite at a time.


  1. It is easier for human to develop a habit and stick to it.


  2. Is forming a hibit something genitics ,we born and inhereit or something that We learn to develop .Can We overcome any habit We developed if We believe not the best to stick to as Tim H coffee,smoke cigartete ,reading news paper each morning , checking emails 5 times daily or killing our back and neck looking at our I Phone ?? etc


  3. Traditions and habits are well acknoledged in different cultures.
    Our society has a habit of a snack or a meal every 2 hours and all workers has the right to have 10-15 min breake every 2 -3 hours by law.

    Sociology student

  4. I am happy to hear about this study Marina and I am sure it is a good and true study.
    I noted that on my slef.
    I am not fearful of foods and my stomack can tolerate more foods better than before.
    I tell you this (still I do not tell this to my parents ) that I start to feel hungry by the time my meal time is approaching !!!
    can you believe this.
    However I was warned by staff at the treatment program that recoevry takes years and I need to be persistant as you.


  5. My worst habit I learnt from a roommate was to take 2 hour nap daily.
    Now after I started a job and I could not do that ,I slowly changed and kicked this habit and was really hard first but a therapsit helped me with sleep hygiene.
    Good post Marina

    Shiela Kitson

  6. That exactly how I overcame my fears of dentist when I was young.
    I remeber it took long and several visist but dentist made it fun for me ,giving me gifts and doing only little IZZZZZ and made me do it on the prosthesis he had in his office.
    Now I love going to dentist


  7. That is very true Marina

    For many many years I ignored taking breakfast and I inherited this habit from my mom but later when I went to university and I had several stress and I saw a counsellor and I remember ,she asked me about how I am doing re :concentration,memory ,fatigue etc and no surprise she did tell me,"you are not eating breakfast" and I said how did you know?.
    Slowly I started pushing and pushing myself to eat my breakfast and I can not believe how just chnaging this and taking daily breakfast affected my whole life .
    Now I never leave my home without having my breakfast


  8. You are right.
    Any habit ,whether good or bad can be acquired and master and We all do it as a routine in our life.
    I am happy because it works for ED !!!


  9. Obama won the election when he raises the CHANGE moto during his election campaign.
    Change is intriguing to people


  10. You know Marina I made 360 degree change to my life and my eating habits since I recovered completly from Ed 6 years ago.
    Even my self esteem is way better and I chnaged the way I look at my self ,the way I feel and priorities in my life .
    Good study Marina that send positive motrivations to all ED

    Recovered ED victim

  11. A lot of people hesitant to make change though and prefer Status Quo as they may be scarred to make the chnage .
    However they may welcome the change if the change comes to them without having to make it.

    The best approach is be initiative ,act proactive ,make the good and positive change and you will get used to it and you will love it.

    This is Nanaraj

    Yes Marina ,,it is me the new Nana after the chnage thanks to you

  12. Hey guys
    Adaptaion is the norm and maladaptation is the exception.
    I mean when you continue doing something again and again,you will get used to it and you may enjoy doing it.
    Explosive therapy works Marina


  13. Do you take any medications to help with your ED. I have heard there are some meds that help with anorexia and bulimia. And also a lot of ppl with ED have anxiety etc.

  14. You know Marina
    I was heavy heavy smoker and I did not know how risky to my heart as all my family smoke like chimney,till I had chest pain and I went hospital and I had a mild heart attach at this young age 33(yes 33)
    Since then I made my commitment to quit and was really really hard but I persist.
    I can't tell you how happy I am now and how good I feel in my chest and my breathing and my good looking teeth and fresh breath etc.

    Before I used to open my eye on smoke and I used to like it and enjoy and I get comfort from my stress when I smoked
    Not any more.
    Yes Marina,if this is the explosive therapy ,it works


  15. Exposure therapy is one of the best treatment of anxiety and post traumatic stress and phobia.
    I am very pleased that is working for ED and I am sure I can use it to help many clients if they have Ed issues.

    Thank Marina for searching and coming up with hints and breakthrough that many of us can benifit ,not only victims of ED or those who recovered or their families but also provideres and professionals who work with ED clients or any one with mental health

    Thanks again

    Kelly W

  16. The way you explain exposure therapy by creating a habit make me understand how one can adopt new life style as my doc telling me re my alcohol and smoke and caffine
    Thanks Marina
    I wish I came across your blog many years ago ,I would not had to argue with my doctor about my life style change

    Sam Ibrahim
    Burnhamthorpe ,Mississauga

  17. Marina
    You are a real proof that ED can be treatted and can be overcome and victims no longer have to be slave again .
    ED victims are smart and stronger but when ED hit them ,ED takes over and control every thing they do and even their brain.
    You are a proof,support and guide to rceovery

    For all of us we need to look at you Marina and follow your feet steps
    We need to use our talents and smartness and develop the habit of eating our meals and rejecting all ED and his associates


  18. This is Lillian
    You are right Marina
    I thought that I was allergic to milk and since I was a baby I avoided all milk and dairy prodcuts .I had weak bones and I broke seevral bones before one doctors asked me if I drink milk and then was the trick.
    Slowly I started add few drop of milk to my tea and my chocolate and WOW ,no allergy and then as you said ,slowly I added milk and increased gradully.
    Now I can say for sure I am taking as much milk as I need.
    Whether allergy or not ,exposure therapy does work

    May God bless Marina


  19. You can master any habit if you continue doing it again and again


  20. As I told you.
    You always look for the breakthrough and you are an example of breakthrough in treating and conquering ED.
    You know I do doing my current roataion with allergist and one of the method of treating uncontrolled allergy is DESENSITZAION
    ,basically after confirming what the client is allergic to,could be dust,mould,mites,pollen,animal dander,ragweek etc
    The allergist make as chedulle to start injection subcut of very small doses and continue to inject weekly with gradually up the dose.The client uposn exposure will develop neuralizing antibody Immunoglbulin G that is diifernt the immunoglobulin E that resulst in allergic reaction
    Upon successful comleteion of the schedduled injection,most cliet recover from allery and not reacted or be senstive any more .

    Exposure therapy does work in allergy.
    You are absolutely right ,it does treat fears ,animal ,dogs,heights,planes ,germs ,etc

    Thanks for letting me share my medical information

    Medical student

  21. That is right.
    I had panic from all Canandian Wonderland rides but over time and with my mother encouragement,I am now able to ride most scry rides even.


  22. Can you post a blog about study tips and tricks. Like is it easier for you because you always find the material engaging and interesting. Or do you ever struggle with finding the material boring.
    Also you can give tips on good food to eat while studying. How studying affected your ED etc.
    I am really interested in what you have to say. I am in the same program as you, I have managed to get some A+’s but my marks have ranged from A+ to B.
    I really don’t have good study habits. I do a lot of things last minute. I feel like I am the only one in the program who does not have a job, and does not work a tone of hours. I am MoMac site but I feel like I am virtually the only one who does not work.
    Do you study on the Bus during your commute ?


    1. You have the most important and more than 3 full time job Katie.
      Your Job is full time learner.
      Please do not underestimate what you are doing and please do not compare your self with others as you do not know exactly what is in others life.
      We compare apple to apple only ,not to orange even both rounded and fruits.
      ED some times tease you by overestimating any thing that can look like inferior.

      My regards to your achievement and Marina 's achievement
      Getting B in your program is something many brag about

    2. Hi Katie, welcome. I think I can say quite a bit for your comment, so I will definitely address it, but in a new post (it would be too long as a comment)

  23. I love everyone's comments here, including own experiences! It is so encouraging to feel that we can all share stuff here.

  24. Do you continue to expose yourself to foods that you wouldn't normally choose such as chocolate or "treats"? I find it hard to push myself to eat foods that I really don't like. In treatment I had to have butter and mayonnaise; two foods that have been disliked my ENTIRE life. How do you know when it is an ED habit or an actual "tastebud" preference?

  25. I just reached my goal weight, after what feels like forever, in and out of hospital. Now I am on my maitenance meal plan. I still haev problems with hunger cues as well. I am sometimes hungry, but sometimes I am not, and have to eat anyway. If I eat when I am not hungry, will I continue to gain weight? Do you haev any expereince with this? Thanks so much!


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