You used a key phrase here - they are part of life! And this is where the trick is...the best way to prevent relapses is to expect that they will happen.
When you are not in distress, think about and expect high-risk situations that may lead to an urge or a relapse. You won’t be able to identify all the possible high-risk situations and that’s ok (life gets in the way of that!), but spotting the ones you already know about is a good start. You can then identify the warning signs that a binge or an urge to binge is coming up.
Are you noticing particular feelings? Thoughts? Bodily sensations? Are you reacting in a particular way? Some people find it helpful to use a “traffic light system” where they group their warning signs into green (the urge is still manageable), amber (it’s starting to get tricky), and red (it feels that the urge is out of control). Then, you can come up with various strategies for each group. You can think about strategies that have helped in the past (e.g. distraction, urge surfing) and incorporate them into your plan.
If you do have a setback, that is ok. Treat it as an event that gives you valuable information about things that don’t help. What is it that triggered you? Can you add that as another high-risk situation on your list? What warning signs did you notice this time? And what would you do differently if you were to go through that situation again?
By asking yourself these questions, you can learn from this setback, and the next time a similar situation presents itself you will be much better equipped to deal with it. Food is an essential part of our lives, and by slowly building a better relationship with it, the less likely we are to have relapses. In this programme, we spend a good amount of time at the end of the course to think carefully about relapse prevention.
Dr Iakovina Koutoufa