I’ve always loved summer. Maybe it’s because of my Southern roots growing up under the hot Arkansas sun, but there’s just something about a calming walk on a cloudless July day that fills my heart with joy and excitement.
For as much as I love this time of year, however, I remember a time when I dread these precious few summer months more than anything. In the midst of my eating disorder (ED) recovery, summer always presented a particularly challenging time. Everywhere I looked, there seemed to be some new toxic message sponsored by fitness and diet industries’ about the need to change your body. It doesn’t help that the advancement of social media has provided a new platform for “health influencers” to share harmful messages that propagate feelings of unworthiness and shame.
It was a definite struggle as someone trying to break free from bad habits and form a healthy relationship with food and my body.
But it was also a struggle that I know is not unique to me.
So as the warmer weather nears, here are some tips that I used to help manage ED triggers during the summer:
1. Remember Your “Why” —
Recovering from an ED is rarely a linear journey. There are almost always setbacks and challenges faced along the way, and it is during these times that I found it most helpful to focus on my “why” (i.e., why I chose recovery). For me, my “why” was so that I could be present at family dinners and social gatherings. I aimed to go throughout my day without being constantly bombarded by thoughts about food. I wanted to regain my smile and love for life. Remember your “why,” and then use it as inspiration to help overcome potential triggers.
2. Use Your Support System —
In general, one of the most difficult parts of my recovery journey was learning that it didn’t have to be my fight alone. I was fortunate enough to have a strong system of support to help me through the tough times, and having people you can turn to during recovery is especially
important when potential triggering situations emerge. Maybe it’s your close friend, family member, or therapist; the important part is (1) ensuring that you have someone to talk to, and (2) not being afraid to use them if needed.
3. Practice Self-Affirmations —
One of the biggest challenges for me during recovery was honing in on self-love and acceptance, which is why I think summer was such a challenging time for me. It proved to be increasingly difficult to focus on my goal of unconditional love and acceptance in the midst of constant messaging promoting self-dissatisfaction and the need to change one’s body. One thing that I found really helped address this issue, however, was practicing self-affirmations. For those who are unfamiliar with this topic, self-affirmations are essentially short, positive phrases that reaffirm our confidence and self-worth; think of phrases like “I am strong and capable,” or “I can do anything I put my mind to.” Whether you choose to write them down or say them in front of a mirror, there is a lot of power in practicing daily self-affirmations, including benefits such as increased mood and decreased levels of stress1, amongst others.
Whatever tools you utilize to help manage triggers during recovery, I hope you remember this: you are strong and capable of making it to the other side. You have people in your life who love and support you, and know that reaching out for help makes you strong, not weak
1 Laura Smith, “12 Benefits of Positive Affirmations: Why They’re Important,” The Good Body (2023). https://www.thegoodbody.com/benefits-of-affirmations/
Nicole Orejuela is a rising junior studying psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She plans on getting her master’s in nutrition and dietetics after college to work towards her goal of becoming a registered dietician (RD), with a particular interest in sports nutrition. Nicole has pursued multiple shadowing opportunities for Wisconsin Children’s Hospital with clinical dieticians at both the Female Athlete Clinic and Eating Disorder Unit, respectively, and runs her own health & wellness blog (https://nicoleorejuela12.wixsite.com/stories-by-nicole) and social media platform in her free time.