As someone who considers themselves in the latter stages of eating disorder recovery, my heart goes out to anyone struggling with food, exercise or body image right now. At a time when so many elements of our lives feel uncertain, I know it is easy to fall into patterns of control around eating. It might be the excessive time, the lack of routine, or anxieties around being in control, but regardless of what has triggered these patterns and behaviours, your struggles are valid and you deserve help.
The reoccurring narrative from so many people right now seems to be to ‘get fit’ and ‘get healthy’. While I couldn’t advocate for health and happiness more, I can’t help but worry that some of this is a convenient cover for people who are engaging in disordered fitness habits or food consumption.
Your struggles are valid and you deserve help.
My social media feeds suddenly seem full of pictures of ‘clean’ food and workout routines; while this has always been present to a certain extent, it feels like the nature of lockdown means these posts are appearing more frequently with little else in between. I worry that seeing such a concentration of these posts could be toxic for people who are struggling or have struggled in the past.
If this is you, I would suggest trying to make your online environment a safe space - you control your feed, so if you find yourself feeling low or experiencing disordered thought patterns, change what you are seeing.
For more tips on how to have a more positive time online, look at our page on social media and mental health.
It's natural for things to feel harder during lockdown
It is a scary time for a lot of people, and during more stressful times there is a tendency to fall into old patterns and routines. For me personally, disordered thoughts and behaviour patterns feel very manageable nowadays, but to say some days of lockdown have been testing is a massive understatement. It has not been easy, and I do worry for those who are in the early stages of recovery or are experiencing relapses, because it can be really hard and there’s no way around that.
Something to remind yourself is that recovery is not linear, so go easy on yourself. Keep striving for recovery but do not let these dips detract from the progress you have made.
Keep striving for recovery but do not let these dips detract from the progress you have made.
Think about your motivation to recover
If you find yourself struggling, try to implement the coping strategies that have helped before. Turning to tried and tested methods shows how much you have learnt; and far from being a step back, it is a demonstration of the wisdom you’ve earned.
For me, if I notice unhealthy patterns or thoughts reoccurring or becoming more frequent, I remind myself of the parts of my life that I fell back in love with when I started to recover. Cooking with friends and family, going out for drinks, long walks; these were the things that brought me a level of happiness that I didn’t know when I was hungry, tired and riddled with anxiety - and they’re parts of my life that I want to keep loving.
For me, if I notice unhealthy patterns or thoughts reoccurring or becoming more frequent, I remind myself of the parts of my life that I fell back in love with when I started to recover.
Reach out for help if you need it
I couldn’t tell you how many conversations I have had over the past few weeks about the ‘inevitable lockdown weight gain’. While I relate to fear of reduced activity, increased consumption of food and the changes that this could have on my body, I know rationally that it just doesn’t matter in the long run.
I don’t think comparisons are helpful, but if you think it would help, try speaking to friends or family you feel comfortable with – many people, even those with no prior disordered thoughts around food or exercise, seem to be feeling some level of anxiety about potential weight gain. This isn’t to minimise how plaguing and all-consuming these thoughts and worries can be but it shows that having these thoughts isn’t an indicator that you are doing ‘badly’ or ‘letting yourself down’ in recovery. It’s just a sign that you (and many others) probably need to be a whole lot kinder to yourself.
Remember that your weight doesn’t equate to your worth.
If you are struggling, please do not let yourself think you aren’t ill enough get help. Restricting your eating may make you feel more in control for a short period of time, but you will never feel fully content. Do not punish yourself for falling back into unhealthy patterns, or on some level wanting to. But please reach out. I know the systems are under a lot of pressure right now but there really is support available, but you do have to reach out for it.
Above all, remember that your weight doesn’t equate to your worth.
If you are struggling with your relationship with food, have a look at our eating problems page for advice and suggestions on where to get help.
Beat, the eating disorder charity, also has lots of helpful information and advice about coping with an eating disorder during the coronavirus pandemic on the eating disorders and coronavirus page of their website.
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