The road towards eating disorder recovery is one that is continuously scattered with roadblocks and obstacles, but it is the ability to discover and utilize helpful coping mechanisms that will get you through these difficult moments. What makes recovery both challenging and rewarding is the intersection of change, acceptance, and surrender of control.
In today’s world, that lack of control is especially prominent. Humankind is currently confronting very troubling times- a global pandemic, racial injustices, devastating wildfires, and polarizing political climates. The uncertainly of what is to come has left many people with anxiety, depression, stress, and uneasiness due to feelings stemming from a loss of control.
For many, their eating disorder serves as a mechanism for control, which contains a false sense of security that ultimately ends up causing harmful, lasting effects. With stress at an all-time high, there may be a tendency for those who are in eating disorder recovery to seek out old coping mechanisms to feel safe and comforted. How can we recognize when we are reverting to those old ways of handling uncertainty, and surrender control to develop effective, healthy coping strategies?
- Create a Routine
Routine helps compartmentalize the brain into manageable sections, ultimately leading to less anxiety by adding structure and predictability to one’s day. During times of uncertainty, developing or maintaining a daily routine can not only ease the discomfort of the unknown, but it could also maintain the recovery process.
For example, planning meals can be one way to have a system in place to give you incentive for creativity with meals, eating intuitively and designing ways to still have social interaction. Plan a weekly “date” with friends, this can include either Zoom sessions or in-person mealtime with your social circle. Research shows that food and eating as a social practice plays a role in our eating patterns and habits, so by making a conscious decision to engage in social eating with those who model healthy, intuitive eating styles may be helpful.
Another component to building routine and structure is incorporating mindful movement into your day- whether it’s yoga, a walking meditation or free-dance, taking that 30 minutes each day to be in tune with your body can improve your physical and mental well-being, aiding in putting a pause on the uncertainties of life.
- Plan meals
- Try to eat intuitively
- Make food social
- Daily mindful movement
- Build a Support System
The people we surround ourselves with have a huge influence on our eating habits, development of self, and our value system. During quarantine, it has been especially difficult to maintain the support system we may have been used to in the recovery process- whether it was group therapy, individual therapy, yoga classes or weekly brunch with friends- that support system was recently turned upside down for many.
The current social climate is extremely isolating right now, however, if we are going to maintain the road to recovery, there must be a support system in place that can be utilized in any situation. This involves utilizing online therapy and support groups. Most therapists and local support groups are offering online sessions and being aware of those resources will aid in the continued sense of community and support.
Another vital aspect to building a support system is having at least one “go-to” person when you are feeling triggered, distressed or in need of encouragement. This could be a therapist, a trusted friend or family member, or an individual who has gone through the recovery process as well and can offer empathy and understanding.
- Online therapy
- Circle of friends and family
- Online support groups
- “Go to” person
- Practice Radical Acceptance
Radical acceptance is about accepting what life has presented to you in the moment and not resisting it- in other words, it is a form of mindfulness and surrender. With all that is happening in the world right now, it is normal to feel anxiety of the unknown and not know what it is you are “supposed” to do next. It is the fear of the unknown, of being judged, and fear of what the future holds that can be so daunting.
With radical acceptance, the idea is that to end one’s suffering, one must recognize it and view it in a non-judgmental way. This can be acknowledging what is happening in the world, understanding that you are not alone in this, and utilizing the support system and routines that you have established for your recovery. The synchronization of acceptance and change is the main tenant of radical acceptance, and this is especially vital in the eating disorder recovery process. This means accepting the uncertainties of the world, as well as accepting that you need to change your disordered eating habits in order to gain food freedom and health.
Throughout this historical time of uncertainty and societal change, there will surely be a universal take-away: you are resilient, capable, and worthy.
- Acknowledge what is happening in the world
- Recognize that you are not alone
- Acceptance and change
- Let go of judgment
Written by Emily Bachmeier, MA