Managing recovery from an eating disorder is challenging at the best of times, but there are various factors that can make it more or less so.
I am a total summer baby. I love the sun and being outdoors, and I’d much rather be warm than cold (especially as I’ve spent so much time being cold as a result of my anorexia). However, there are things about the summer that can make recovery feel difficult. That being said, I thought it might be useful to share some of my tips for getting through the hotter months.
Adapt your diet if you need to
This is a tricky one because eating disorders are so sneaky, so you’d have to be really honest with yourself about where you are in your recovery before making changes to how you are eating (for example, if you still need a meal plan it’s important to discuss changes to this with a professional if you have access to one). However, I find when it’s hot that my appetite shifts a bit, and I find it much easier to get all the nutrition I need by eating smaller meals more often, than bigger meals less frequently. It’s very easy to end up eating smaller meals and eating less often, so it’s really important for me to make sure I am having really frequent snacks throughout the day. I also find it easier to eat cold foods where possible, as I find it quite difficult to eat dense, hot food when it’s hot out. As I have already said though, I am in a stable enough place in my recovery to be able to make changes like this without it resulting in restriction, so make sure you are too before doing so.
Wear clothes you feel comfortable in
This could be taken two ways I suppose, physical comfort and psychological comfort. Ideally, it would be good to find a mix of both, but warmer weather presents a good opportunity to challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone. Eating disorders can often cause us to wear things that hide our bodies. While this may feel more comfortable in some ways, I’m sure you don’t want to be wearing trackies and hoodies when it’s 30 degrees outside. Try to wear things that will help you to feel cool.
It can feel really difficult to allow ourselves to simply rest and just be. But it’s really easy to get dehydrated and use more energy than you’re putting in when it’s hot out, and resting is a really important part of recovery and recuperation. The more on the go you are the hotter you’ll get, which can end up being uncomfortable and also affect your appetite.
Curate your social media feeds
‘Summer bodies’ are going to be talked about all over the place, often accompanied by photos of completely unattainable physiques. If you are able to pre-empt this and cull your feeds of these kinds of messages where possible, it will hopefully reduce those body comparison thoughts.
Nobody wants to look back at their summer and think about how their eating disorder ruined it. Even when it feels difficult, try to get out and about, either alone or with people you care about, and do nice activities. When you don’t want to go out, try to do opposite actions. It can be helpful to maybe create a summer bucket list of things you’d like to enjoy or achieve.
Don’t push yourself too hard
Although making memories and socialising is often a key part of recovery, it’s important to recognise when you are at your limit. Pushing yourself too hard can be counterproductive and result in feelings of stress and panic, which can actually make us go backwards. It’s really good to be able to challenge yourself, but make sure you’re being honest about how much you are able to manage.
Talk to people
I always bang on about this, but I think it’s so important to let people know how you are doing, whether it’s that you feel motivated and engaged in recovery, or if you are struggling. Remember it’s okay to set boundaries with others about what you are able to do, and to remind people that there are activities that don’t have to centre around things like picnics and going to the beach.
If you need to, reach out for some extra support. If you are somebody currently being supported by professionals, it’s important to communicate with them when things get more difficult. But if you’re not under the care of eating disorder or mental health services, remember there are other options. Look for a local support group in your area or see if you can find one online. Remember there are always charities out there such as Beat in the UK or NEDA in the US, who may be able to offer some help and advice, or just a listening ear. You don’t have to go through this alone.
If you are somebody who struggles with the summer, remember that it’s temporary. Do you have any more tips about how to cope?