While summertime is a wonderful time for many, for survivors of eating disorders, getting through this season can be difficult to navigate. Everything from vacations to barbecues often centers on drinking, dining and fun as the weather warms up and people get out to socialize. Additionally, the pressure to maintain a “beach body” can easily cause relapse for many.
If you are an eating disorder survivor, remembering how far you’ve come can give you the strength to enjoy this time of year. Remember, also, that summertime doesn’t have to be as much about a beach body as it is about spending quality time with family and friends. Here are five tips to help you cope during the summer and year-round as well.
One vacation eating survival tip: Make lists. Consult with your therapist or nutritionist to plan out meals in advance. Write down your plan for how many calories you should consume and stick to it. If people whom you don’t confide in try to pressure you to eat more or less, you can choose to inform them that, due to health reasons, you follow a specific diet. They don’t need to know the details.
If you’re with close friends and family who know of your recovery, share your meal plan with them, so they understand you are not being rude by turning down foods or events that are triggering or aren’t on your list.
Try Not to Be Too Restrictive
Remind yourself that it’s OK to enjoy things in moderation. Depriving oneself completely can pressure some into backsliding on their hard-earned progress. Again, it is important to talk to a trusted doctor or nutritionist about what will be best for you as you recover. They can help you do things like decide on a reasonable portion size for your favorite delicacies. Focus on savoring every bite!
Those in recovery from anorexia may feel the need to give excuses to avoid eating, such as saying they ate earlier or they are saving their appetite for a later event. For those recovering from bulimia or binge-eating disorder, however, food- and drink-focused events can trigger the urge to binge and possibly purge after.
When triggers strike, take the time to refocus. Distract yourself by asking to assist with preparation or cleanup. Activities that engage your eyes and mind, such as crossword puzzles, can also serve as helpful distractions when easing into your new dietary regimen. Refrain from turning to alcohol as a distraction, as it can lead to other problems like dependency.
Talk to Your Support System
Those in recovery know some people in their lives are more supportive than others. Now is the time to rally the troops, so to speak, by reaching out to those you most trust and asking for their support.
Having an ally you know you can count on can make any high-pressure situation more manageable. Knowing you have someone to confide in about how you feel can help diffuse the urge to binge or purge.
And as tempting as it may be during this busy time, don’t skip the therapist appointment. Remember that by taking the time to care for yourself, you are gifting those you love with the very best version of you.
Allow Yourself to Say “No”
Sometimes, we all get overwhelmed. Remember you don’t need to accept every invitation you receive. If you have a particularly unsupportive acquaintance, for example, who you know can’t resist criticizing you and your eating habits, it’s OK to avoid a gathering they’re attending. In fact, you probably want to avoid that person altogether!
When it’s impossible to avoid certain people who trigger you, plan an exit strategy so you can step away for a few minutes to gather yourself or slip away altogether. Your mental health is paramount, and those who truly care will respect your need to say “no.”
The pressure surrounding obtaining a “beach body” amidst indulgent vacations and summer parties may feel difficult for those recovering from eating disorders to navigate. But with a solid plan in place and a support system you can trust, you can enjoy the season while keeping your recovery on track.