Growing up in Northern Michigan, summer was the topic of conversation all year long. Nothing seemed to bring more joy than the day when the ice had melted, temperatures had risen and everyone could head to the beach. Even work seemed a bit better when you knew you could leave and spend the evening outside on the porch taking in the afternoon sun. The bulky clothes of winter were, for the most part, gladly packed away. Summer always seemed inextricably linked with hopefulness and fun.
For many though, the idea of summer approaching provokes a deep sense anxiety. When an eating disorder takes root it can be so much harder to find joy in the summer months. Having an eating disorder is like a full time job, and summer means the hours spent working at your eating disorder increase dramatically. Eating disorders don’t take a vacation, but there are steps you can take to make sure your eating disorder doesn’t ruin yours.
1. The first thing you can to do is to look at your priorities - acknowledge that your health does matter, and an eating disorder can damage your body, mind, and spirit. How do you want your summer to go? How do you want to feel? Rather than focusing on the pressure of getting rid of the eating disorder, focus on the self-compassionate goal of feeling as physically and emotionally well as possible. Think about all the things your body CAN do for you in the summer when you’re nourishing yourself.
2. Think about what’s worked for you in the past. If you are unsure of where to start, find a therapist who specializes in eating disorders and go from there. if you were away at college and are home for the summer, ask for a referral. Find a support group - there are eating disorder support groups available to walk with you so you don’t have to go this fight alone. Be honest with your loved ones who will be there to support you. If they are doing things that trigger the eating disorder, let them know. You can brainstorm together to figure out more helpful ways they can express their support.
3. Focus on activities that truly bring you joy. This might mean getting out of your comfort zone if you haven’t done them in a while. If you love sitting in the park and reading, be intentional about making time to do that. Maybe it’s visiting your favorite amusement park, or driving along the coast with the windows down. Whatever brings you joy, be intentional about making time for those activities - take pictures and put them on your wall with a reminder of how much fun you had. If there are situations you know will not enjoy and can easily avoid, take the pressure off of yourself and decide not to go. Ask yourself if skipping out will matter in a year or five years. Sometimes our commitments reflect a pressure we feel to perform and be there for everyone and everything. Make decisions based on what feels best for YOU, not for other people or for your eating disorder.
4. Give yourself permission to not have the perfect summer. Recovery takes work, and just like life, it is not going to be perfect. There is no perfect recovery. Take the pressure off, get out there, and enjoy your summer – whatever that needs to look like for you.
- Damaris Garcia