Sailing Through Summertime While Recovering From an Eating Disorder
Summer time – school is out, the weather is warm, pools are open, the sand is awaiting bare toes, the ice cream man is out and about, summer clothes are hanging on the clothing racks and summer vacations are booked. For some people, these descriptions sound lovely, especially for those who live in regions where the weather is cold a better part of the year. For others, it sounds dreadful, as summertime brings on added fear and anxiety. If you are not one of those people, keep reading, as I invite you to learn a new perspective that some of your peers struggle with.
For those suffering from an eating disorder, disordered eating or body image dissatisfaction, summertime brings on a whole new layer of fears and worries. Below are some tips for managing, and maybe at times embracing, summertime.
Have a plan. If you are in treatment, let your team (therapist, dietitian, etc.) know what your summer plans are. Do you have a vacation planned? Possibly a summer internship or summer camp? Or maybe your kids are going away for camp and being without them could trigger you. Whatever it may be, be sure that you have a plan in place with your therapist and dietitian. Continue to stay on track with your therapy goals and continue to follow your meal plan that you and your dietitian have created. If you do not have a team, reach out for help.
Scrap the cultural messages. When I am waiting in line to check out at the grocery store, I am totally guilty of flipping magazine covers so that at least some people are saved that day from the jaded messages that appear all over magazine covers as pillars of health. We have to begin to understand that media and social media are trying to sell something at the end of the day. Find body positive social media accounts to follow; messages that encourage you to live in your body and take care of the vessel that you live your life in.
Create positive affirmations.I am a huge fan of positive affirmations. If you are unfamiliar with this term, positive affirmations are meant to be empowering messages and positive thinking tools. I like to challenge my clients to make positive affirmation jars (those are fun to decorate) or use post-its and write positive affirmations on them and stick them on the mirror. That way, you see these positive messages at vulnerable times. Since I incorporate yoga principles into my treatment with clients, I will often present a Sanskrit word for them to use as a positive affirmation for the week when a challenge comes up.
Radically accept that every body is different.Ask yourself, “What behaviors are getting in the way of accepting my body?” When you are feeling defeated by bad body image thoughts, ask yourself, “How do I experience suffering when I refuse to accept reality?” I do not encourage my clients to compare themselves to others. With that being said, one time during session, a client told me about a moment she had at the beach where she looked around and realized how different every body is. It was a moment for her that was pivotal in her treatment. She knew that she would never look exactly like anyone else, because she was her own person with genes that were unique to her. There was something empowering for her with this realization, knowing that she was a true individual.
Dive into a good eating disorders help book or positive body image book. Some good ones include the following:
Know that you are not alone.We are all exposed to these messages. The degree to which we react to them is what is different for all. It is almost like we live in a world where if you are not bashing your own body, complaining about your body or scheming to “fix” a specific body part, you are not part of the society. That is not okay. We need to unlearn this thinking together so that our future generations can solve problems, rather than create more. Look for local groups or support groups in your area. Support is always within reach.