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4 Reasons Why Summer Is Tough for Me as Someone in Anorexia Recovery

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Summer for many is a time of joy and happiness. It’s family BBQs and picnics, ice creams and sunbathing, but summer can be an especially difficult time when you are in recovery from an eating disorder. The end of June is approaching and although I enjoy the prospect of more sunshine and lighter evenings, it also sparks feelings of anxiety and insecurity.

Ever since I developed anorexia nervosa three years ago, for the past three consecutive summers I have been medically underweight. Summer therefore can be a particularly triggering time of year for me. For me, summer has now become associated with partial hospitalization programs and my intense fear and misery. And yes, there is still a longing for my disordered body.

This year is the first summer in three years that I have maintained a medically “healthy” weight.

Navigating my way through summer is particularly tough, and here are some of the reasons why.

1. The pressure of being “bikini body ready.”

During summer, the general population gets bombarded by diet culture. The pressure — on women especially — to be “bikini body ready” is intense. Diets are heavily promoted and advertised along with pictures of “flawless” models. For many, these advertisements can monopolize on existing insecurities about body shape. But as someone with an eating disorder, this is particularly triggering and exhausting to contend with.

I have to constantly remind that whatever my body looks like, it is “bikini ready.” Put a bikini on and there you have it: a bikini body.

My body is healing, and I must treat it with the respect it deserves. For me, this means sticking to regular eating and keep my diet unrestrictive. It’s important that we remember hating our bodies will never get us as far as loving ourselves will.

2. Shorts and short-sleeves.

As the temperatures rise, I can anticipate the return of the shorts, short-sleeved tops and dresses.

As someone with an eating disorder, I am hyperaware of my body, and critically analyze what I look like in any outfit, searching for any “flaw” I can find.

Shorts are particularly difficult for me. However, one of the ways I try to combat this is by regularly challenging myself to wear shorts, even if they are just PJ shorts that I wear to bed or wear around the house. I try to think about my legs differently, and instead see them for all they do for me. After all, these are the legs that allow me to run after my nephew playing hide and seek, the legs that allow me to explore new places. Sometimes it’s all a matter of perspective. I may not like my thighs right now, but I remind myself my body keeps me alive and this is the most important thing.

In addition to shorts, baring my arms in summer is particularly difficult. I’ve struggled with self-harm for a while now, and my left arm is scarred. When out in public, I’m very used to people noticing my scars and many giving a disapproving look in my direction. Some people even offer unwelcome remarks.

But please know this, if you too have scars from self-harm or otherwise, it’s OK. Scars don’t define you. I believe they don’t decide your future or define your past. I encourage you to embrace your scars, for they mean you were simply stronger than whatever tried to break you.

I encourage others not to feel the need to cover up for other people’s sake. If you want to wear a short-sleeve top, then you deserve to do so.

3. Lack of structure.

In the summer months, my days become less busy. The structure that was in place throughout the winter months ceases to exist for me, and more often than not, my plans will change at the last minute.

This lack of “control” for me triggers my anorexia, as food is something I’ve always felt was in my control. My urges to restrict often increase. The lack of structure provides an opportunity for missed meals and snacks, but I know this is not the right thing to do.

I didn’t feel happy restricting and I constantly remind myself that the “control” and “safety” anorexia provides is an illusion and real control is sticking to my meal plan even when it feels like the hardest thing to do.

4. BBQ picnics and meals out.

Summer is often a time when families will get together over a BBQ, or friends will arrange to have a picnic in the park. Social situations around food are always a little anxiety provoking for me. But even more so at big social events and family get togethers.

Worrying about what to eat, thoughts on whether it’s too much or not enough often flood my mind, and my head can become really loud.

If you too struggle, I also find that surrounding myself with people and conversation can serve as a useful distraction. Take the focus off the food, and enjoy the experience of it around you!

Summer definitely throws up some challenges, but this only means more opportunities to grow and to me, that’s never a bad thing.

Take it at your own pace and remember the little victories — they aren’t little.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Unsplash photo via Abbie Bernet.

Originally published: June 13, 2017
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