The world currently exists in a state of uncertainty and desperation. People feel helpless in the face of a viral predator they cannot see. Concern regarding work and finances has become the norm. Moreover, living in isolation, which is contrary to healthy human existence, only serves to intensify fear, loneliness, and worry.
This is a perfect storm for a constellation of mental health issues to take hold and thrive. Not the least of these is eating disorders.
Even before isolation went into effect, social media was alive with alarmist chatter about the unavoidable impact a quarantine would have on women’s weight. And this relentless talk continues with dark predictions of the COVID 15. This is an obvious spin-off from the freshman 15, a term that triggers intense weight-gain anxiety in many first-year college students.
At Eden Treatment Center, we are very concerned about those in eating disorder recovery. As such, we offer the following practical suggestions to help sustain and support your journey:
Remain in Touch
Isolation is an eating disorder’s best friend; therefore, stay connected with your support system. Plan group chat sessions, book discussions, lunch, or dinner dates. Prop up your phone and do an art project or cook a meal with a friend. Schedule appointments with your therapist, dietitian, or medical doctor if necessary. Organizations such as the National Eating Disorder Association offers lists of low-cost or free virtual support groups that you can join.
Use Social Media Wisely
Social media is a double-edged sword. It can be your closest ally or your worst enemy, especially now. Limit usage and focus on positivity. Do not fall victim to photo comparisons, fat-shaming posts or content inordinately concerned with weight or appearance.
Be Kind to Yourself
Recognize, then make peace with the fact that you cannot control the universe right now—no one can. Maintain a healthy structure. Commit to getting up and going to bed at a normal time. Do not convince yourself that you have nothing to get up for. Make self-care an absolute, instead of a luxury. Be intentional about allowing your body to experience joyful movement, whether in a restorative yoga class or just dancing to favorite music. Give your body the food it needs and deserves. Toward that end, set an alarm for meals and snack times. Nurture your mind and spirit by placing post-it note affirmations where you will encounter them.
Prepare for A Return to Normality
This season, with all its fears and hardships, will eventually end. Although difficult to imagine, weight-loss programs, workout facilities, and over-the-counter diet drugs and supplements can’t wait to get you back on board. The very marketing firms that are telling you to sit on the couch today and eat home-delivery food will be vying for your consumer dollars tomorrow. Here is what all appearance-based advertisements–whether skin potions, makeup, or weight-loss products—have in common: they must make you feel bad about yourself; only then will you purchase the item or service. Do not buy into manipulative and false claims regarding how you got out of shape during isolation.
Staying well is paramount in the days and months ahead. But only you can protect your eating disorder recovery. Continue doing what you know works and keep your eyes on the prize: a life of integrity, honesty, balance, and joy.
-Content provided by Joanna O’Neill, LMFT