Summer is right around the corner. Most people associate the season with relaxation and fun, but for those in eating disorder recovery, it is full of unique challenges. Here are some summer eating disorder triggers to be aware of, and ways to cope.
More Revealing Clothing
Shorts, tank tops, and bathing suits are common summer outfits, yet they can be a trigger for someone with an eating disorder. The idea of revealing more of your body can be scary, especially if you also struggle with body image issues.
Pressure to Lose Weight or Change Appearance
During the spring and summer months, you’ll often hear people talk about achieving a “beach body” or getting “bathing suit ready.” The big misconception is that people must lose weight or build muscle to be able to enjoy the summer. This is a toxic way of thinking that ultimately contributes to disordered eating and exercise habits.
Increase in Physical Activities
Seasonal activities such as swimming, boating, and hiking are popular during the summer. Having these physical activities available can be a trigger for someone who struggles with compulsive over-exercising.
Lack of Structure
For children, teens, and young adults, the summer months lack structure. They are home from school or college and may be working irregular hours at a summer job. This loss of structure can disrupt regularly scheduled meal times.
Seasonal Life Events
The summer is also a transition period for adolescents and young adults. Middle school, high school, and college graduations can be stressful milestones. The pressures of starting at a new school or finding a job may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as disordered eating.
Summer is a popular time for family reunions and other events. This could present several triggers. Comments about weight or appearance, even ones that are intended as a “compliment,” can reinforce eating disorder thoughts. The idea of eating in front of other people may also be difficult for someone in recovery. And there may be limited access to safe foods on an individual’s meal plan.
How to Cope with Summer Eating Disorder Triggers
There are a variety of healthy coping mechanisms for eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. Here are some things to remember as we head into the summer season.
- Embrace your body for what it can do, not what it looks like.
- Set healthy boundaries on summer interactions. For example, if you don’t feel comfortable at a family reunion, bring a trusted support person and limit the time you spend at the event.
- Wear clothing that fits you and that you feel comfortable in; remember that you don’t have to wear a revealing outfit if that makes you uncomfortable.
- If you choose to participate in summer sports or activities, remember to take breaks when your body feels tired. If you feel hungry after exercising, allow yourself to intuitively eat.
- Practice mindfulness and healthy coping skills.
- Reach out to a trusted person if you need help adjusting to life transitions.
- Consider talking to a school or career counselor if you are applying to colleges or looking for a job.
- Talk with a therapist to help you manage triggers and maintain recovery.
Summer is considered a time of relaxation, a season where many of us go on vacation. While it’s a great idea to take some time off from work to rest and recharge, keep in mind that eating disorder therapy should be a part of your summer schedule. Don’t take time off from recovery – schedule regular sessions with a therapist.
Consider an IOP or PHP Program This Summer
Summer is a great time to take a break from work or school and focus on your eating disorder recovery. Consider entering an intensive outpatient (IOP) or partial hospitalization (PHP) program. These programs offer a more intense treatment experience. You will work on your recovery each day and attend sessions with a variety of professionals, including dietitians and licensed therapists.
Due to the current outbreak of COVID-19, Seeds of Hope is offering IOP and PHP virtually through secure video conferencing. Anyone in the state of Pennsylvania is able to participate, and we treat both adults and teens. Call our admissions office at (610) 644-6464 to enroll in one of our programs.