Summer and Eating Disorder Recovery
Eating disorder recovery is hard any time of the year but summer can bring its own unique challenges to the table. Here are some tips to help you continue moving forward in your eating disorder recovery process.
Summer is hard for those in eating disorder recovery. The majority of my clients have been talking about concerns and difficulties they are having as the summer season is approaching. Whether it is being bombarded on social media by weight loss or "get your bikini body"ads, having friends or family in your life talking about wanting to lose weight for summer, increased awareness about your body with clothes for warmer weather, or going on vacations with others and having to be more flexible about eating, there is no shortage of concerns going into this season. Below are 5 tips on navigating the summer season in eating disorder recovery.
1. Clean up your social media
Now is the perfect time to take stock of the social media accounts you are
following. Frequently looking at posts, images, and messages that promote weight
loss, diet culture, or endorse disordered eating behaviors can increase our obsession and fixation with our appearance, weight, and food. When viewig social media ask yourself if what you are looking at is supporting or harming your recovery. If it is harming your recovery, challenge yourself to unfollow or at the very least mute it. Try finding new accounts to follow that support your recovery.
2. Wear clothes that fit your body now
Our bodies do not stay the same size forever. One of the big areas I work with clients on for the summer is finding clothes that they feel comfortable in. If you try on a pair of shorts from last summer and they no longer fit, work on ways to accept your body as it is now rather than feeling the need to change it so that the shorts fit again. This is much easier said than done but an important area of focus for eating disorder recovery. This may mean that you need to buy some new clothes to dress your current body.
3. Don't avoid situations because of body dissatisfaction
When you don't feel good about your body, it can be tempting to skip get togethers and activities where your body is not as covered such as going to the pool or beach with friends. Think about what you would be doing differently if you accepted your body. Would you be wearing a swimsuit and swimming in the pool because it is hot out and you enjoy the water or would you be sitting on the side, covered with a baggy t-shirt and long pants because you don't want anyone to see your body? Make the choices on what action to take based on what you enjoy and what feels good to your body not based on your concerns around what it looks like. Taking those actions that are fun and enjoyable regardless of our feelings about our body can help get us out of the cycle of "________ would be better if I just lost weight."
4. Plan ahead
Whether you are out of school, going on vacation, or getting together more with friends, summer presents several opportunities where the structure that was in place at other times of the year is disrupted. Flexibility is an important aspect of recovery. However, especially in the early stages, structure is a necessary component. Working with your treatment team on how much flexibility vs. how much structure you should build into that upcoming vacation or get together is important. Being intentional and planning about what ratio of flexibility to structure is necessary for where you are in your journey can set you up for greater success and continued forward movement in the recovery process. It may be more beneficial for your recovery at this time to plan ahead and pack a safe snack whereas for someone else in their recovery going to grab ice cream or another snack may be most beneficial for them. It is important to come up with a plan that takes into account where you are in your recovery process.
5. Up your support if you're struggling
If you find yourself struggling more with your recovery, this can be a great time to up your support. With changing schedules or time off, there can be space to add in more appointments, groups, or consider dedicating time to a higher level of care. Remember that just because you are struggling now does not mean that this will always be the case.
These tips are a great starting point for protecting your eating disorder recovery. Remember having to dedicate so much effort into preparing for the summer will not always be necessary. One day summer will just be summer and you will be able to enjoy the warm weather, vacations, and backyard get togethers without being worried about how you look or what you are eating.