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Maintaining Binge Eating Disorder Recovery During the Summer

Kara Richardson Whitely

I spent many summers in fear and trepidation. I felt like this was a season that I didn’t fit in.

There’s good reason because leading up to the warmer months, magazines told me how to get the perfect beach body. When swimsuit season was upon us, I was mortified that I never achieved a body with shipshape abs. 

To me, this was a time when people bared their bodies and went to the pool, which I loathed because it meant uncovering my own frame. Even the shoes – flimsy little flip-flops – didn’t support my weight. At my highest weight, I carried extra pounds, a wool coat of all sorts of emotions I didn’t deal with. I was hot all of the time. 

Also, summer is a break from routine. School was out. Perhaps work was a little slower. Feelings of boredom and abandonment, echoes of my latchkey kid without summer activities crept in. I felt so very alone. Food was my friend, and thus, the binging began. 

In the summer after I was sexually assaulted, I gained a significant amount of weight.

As I struggled with binge eating disorder (BED), I wanted nothing to do with this time of year. I wished spring would morph into fall, a time of cool and comfort. 

Over the years of my recovery I’ve learned to use summer as a time to use this break from the routine to heal, strengthen and reinforce my path to wellness. As an adult, I can sign myself up for workshops or programs that help me do that. 

I can go to summer concerts that make my heart sing. 

That means I have to do a lot of reframing. A walk in the woods is not punishment, but natural air conditioning with the shade overhead. On my birthday, we took a little jaunt to a nearby trail. My kids took their shoes off. It was nearly 90 degrees so the cool canopy and the fresh air was such a relief. 

Having the kids out of school adds to the chaos. However, making a list of foods for the week with my kids so their snack attacks don’t become my excuse to go off my plan, is helpful.

In my recovery, I’ve learned that I already had a beach body. We all have beach bodies. If I want to be true to my values, I need to stay active and be a model for my family. That means putting on a bathing suit and feeling good about it, no matter what size I am. I don’t want to hear negative self-talk about my body. Instead, I’d rather focus on my kids splashing and giggling at the pool. 

My body is my story. I can be as confident as I tell myself I am. How I look in a bathing suit is how I tell myself I look. I feel a whole lot better when my kids are happy and outside. 

There is no season to feel bad about myself. This life of mine is good in all seasons, and summer is an especially good time to work on and reinforce recovery. 

What kinds of things will you do to foster and build a foundation for your recovery this summer? 

Kara Richardson Whitely is the author of Fat Woman on the Mountain, Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro, and the upcoming book, Weight of Being. She is a National Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Advocate for Eating Recovery Center.