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5 Challenges for People With Eating Disorders in the Summer – and How to Beat Them

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Summer is here, and many are ready for the pools, barbecues and warm weather. But summer pastimes are not always as enjoyable for everyone. For the 20 million women and 10 million men who will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime, summer activities can turn into serious triggers. The pressures of public eating and wearing more revealing clothing can be a difficult adjustment.

It’s important to be able to enjoy summer, even if you’re still working to overcome the limitations of your disorder. So we teamed up with the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) to see what challenges people with eating disorders face in the summer — and what advice our communities had for beating them.

Here’s what they had to say:

1.  Eating in public.

Summertime often brings people together to eat at barbecues and parties full of food we’ve been made to feel “guilty” over. This can be especially difficult for someone living with an eating disorder. Having a support system for these events can make all the difference.

“I find it always helps to have someone you can rely on for support at events with a lot of food. That way if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious they can help you make it through.” — Michelle T.

2. Lack of structure.

Eating disorder recovery, as well as recovery from most mental illnesses, uses structured days to help get into a healthy routine. Without the constant schedule of school or work, these routines can break down over the summer.

“My biggest summer challenge is lack of structure in my day. I’m a teacher and with summers off, I have a lot of free time. I do my best to plan activities to fill my days: art projects, visiting friends, house work.” — Kristin M.


3. Summer clothes.

Summer weather brings summer clothes, which can make it hard to be comfortable in public if you struggle with an eating disorder. It’s important to always wear something that makes you comfortable and never try to hold yourself to a standard you wouldn’t for others.

“For anyone who is going to have to be trying on summer clothes after they have gained weight in recovery, be kind to yourself. It will be very hard to deal with so have someone with you who can support you and ensure you there is nothing wrong with gaining weight and that you look amazing no matter what.” — Alison G.


4. Summer body expectations.

Starting in the spring, gyms and clothing stores across the country advertise for the “perfect summer body.” Not only is this an unrealistic standard, it can also make eating disorder recovery difficult by bombarding people with messages of what a body “should” look like. It’s important to remember no two bodies are the same. Society’s expectations for what you “should” look like are just designed to sell you things and shouldn’t be an actual template for how you judge yourself.

“Keeping in mind that other people may not know your struggles, and you may have to ignore comments about bathing suits, diets, beach bodies. Know that stuff does not apply to you, especially if you are working on becoming weight restored.” — Maria C.


5. Keeping up your support systems.

Lots of people leave school during the summer, and some people have summers off from work too. This can make it easy to isolate yourself from supportive friends, family and coworkers. It’s important to stay connected, since support systems can be one of your biggest tools.

“A big thing for recovery anytime is surrounding yourself with supportive friends, family, therapists and doctors. And you need to keep up your coping skills.” — Heather R.


For more advice, resources and news about eating disorders, check out the National Eating Disorder Association

Originally published: July 5, 2016
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