Summer is typically a season where sunny vacations, time with friends and family, and barbecues, festivals, carnivals, and pool parties seem to be the regular occurrence. For most people, it is a time to celebrate and relax.
But for those of us in eating disorder recovery, it is also full of unique challenges that those who have struggled can only imagine.
Here are some summer eating disorder tips that we can all learn to cope in a healthy way through this season.
1. Wear comfortable clothing
Each individual will define what is “comfortable clothing” to them. It is important that you should not feel pressured to dress in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. For example, in the summer many people are wearing shorts, tank tops, and swimsuits.
Ultimately, it is your choice to wear what makes you and your body feel comfortable. I know for myself, I do not feel comfortable wearing tight shorts or tops. Therefore, I have found some amazing cool, loose summer clothes and sundresses that I absolutely love to wear in the summer. I feel good and love the way I feel in the clothes I choose.
2. Don’t feel pressured to participate in certain activities.
This can be anything from swimming, to going to a barbecue, to attending a food festival or anything in-between; however, it is important to try and differentiate between whether you feel that you may not be safe and use behaviors at a certain event or you are avoiding an event where you may need to challenge yourself. Of course, this all depends on where you are in your recovery process. Depending on where you are, some events may be positive challenges to help you utilize your coping skills, while others may not be appropriate. Work with your therapist to develop a recovery action plan for the event.
3. Put the camera away.
Summer seems to be a time when selfies, vacation photos and group photos are a recurring theme. If you are struggling with your body image, just seeing yourself in photos can be triggering and could possibly affect your recovery. It may be helpful to put the camera away and notify others that you would prefer to not be photographed. There is no explanation needed, other than the camera is not helpful to your recovery.
Putting the camera away and notifying others that you don’t want to be photographed can be particularly helpful in your recovery process.
4. Maintain a healthy recovery schedule/routine
Write out your recovery routine and have it out where you can see it easily to remember to follow it daily. This may include affirmations, meditation, journaling, treatment team appointments, and other self care practices. It may also help to keep a daily planner and recovery journal to remind you of your schedule, plans, and goals.
How to Cope with Summer Eating Disorder Triggers
Here are some healthy coping mechanisms for eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. Here are some things we should remember this season:
1. Embrace your body for what it can do, not what is looks like
2. Set healthy boundaries this summer with family and friends about your own needs. Drive separately to events or distance yourself from unhealthy people you may encounter.
3. Wear clothing that fits you and that you feel comfortable in
4. Practice mindfulness and maintain recovery routine and self care
5. Bring a trusted support person to any activities you may feel triggered at. Limit the time you spend at such events if needed.
6. Talk with your therapist regularly to help manage triggers that may come up this summer
Summer is a time of relaxation and celebration. While it’s a great idea to take time off work or school to rest and recharge, keep in mind that structure and a recovery routine is most important. It’s important not to take any time off of recovery this summer.
Kirsten Book, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, is a dual board-certified family nurse practitioner and psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in treating adolescents and adults struggling with eating disorders, substance use, and co-occurring disorders. Not only does Kirsten have the education and clinical experience, but she also is in recovery from an eating disorder. She uses her own personal experience to draw empathy, compassion, and humility when working with her patients. Kirsten has the unique opportunity to help improve an individual’s mental health, by not only utilizing medications and psychotherapy, but also by instilling hope, which she believes is just as powerful and effective as what any medication can do. Kirsten has an outpatient private practice in Chicago, Illinois. She also is licensed to practice in Arizona and Washington. Kirsten is also the Medical Liaison for IAEDP (International Association for Eating Disorder Professionals), and she speaks at local schools to help educate the adolescents and staff about eating disorder prevention and treatment.