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White tees and BBQs – Enjoying summer with an eating disorder

Summer can be a difficult time for people with eating disorders. Blogger Alex shares her thoughts about how to get the best out of the summer months.

Here we go again. Summer is almost here, which for all its shiny pros also comes with a multitude of cons for those in recovery from an eating disorder. It seems all everyone is talking about is losing weight, bikini bodies, summer diets, wearing less clothing and showing more skin. It doesn’t take much of this talk to become overwhelmed and anxious, and even more disappointing, if you’ve felt like you’re in a good place up until the summer season, it can feel like you’re going backwards.

Summer is for enjoyment but you need to take care of yourself, mentally, physically and nutritionally. Firstly, stay social; don’t shut yourself away and wait for it to all be over. The increased free time during summer creates more potential alone time, and ED symptoms tend to thrive in isolation and secrecy, so really try to say yes to social occasions. The lack of structure out of term-time can lead to unhealthy behaviours such as skipping meals, so if you need that control, create a new routine for yourself so you can take comfort in these constants.

In today’s culture, social media can dominate our lives and posts of unrealistic and unachievable body images are plastered everywhere, which can contribute to low self esteem and body dissatisfaction. Remember, they are only posting their ‘best’ and whilst they may seem perfect, everyone is struggling with something. Don’t believe everything you see and read, and unfollow individuals obsessed with posting about their brightly coloured clean meals, exercise regimes and ‘perfect’ bodies. Escape the images of airbrushed models and diets by not engaging with those accounts; they’re not worth your time. Instead follow motivational accounts that encourage body positivity and make you feel good about your body.   

What to wear in summer can be tricky at the best of times – do I need a jacket, is it going to rain, exactly how warm is it? The idea of wearing summery, revealing clothes may fill you with dread and you are not alone. For years I would never have dreamt of wearing a white top, or any white clothes, for that matter. It was something only slim people could pull off, and that wasn’t me. The world tells us we’re not worthy of wearing certain clothes unless we look a certain way. Well, stuff that! I now have a number of new white tops in my wardrobe and they’re quickly becoming my favourite attire for the summer. Don’t let anyone dictate what you can and can’t wear; dress in whatever you’re comfortable and happy in, and that includes strappy tops, shorts and swimsuits!

Warm weather goes hand in hand with spontaneous BBQs, picnics and ice creams, which can be daunting, especially if you have your new routine you’re trying to stick to. It’s perfectly okay to be anxious about these events, but try and challenge yourself to say yes and enjoy time sharing food with friends and family. It’s okay to deviate from your plan; in fact, it’s a celebration! You’re eating disorder is saying those are bad foods; you can’t eat that, and you’re saying what’s summer without a BBQ and a Mr. Whippy? Yes I totally can AND I’m going to enjoy it! You are not being judged and you will not gain weight uncontrollably from eating a white bread roll (*gasp*) with a sausage in it. Nothing bad will ever happen from sharing food with friends sat on a picnic blanket on a hot day.  

You may be going on holiday or jetting off travelling during the summer months. Again, this is a change in routine and full of scary unknowns. You might be in denial and think that going away will be like starting afresh and you’ll be spontaneous and brave, but in truth you can’t run from your ED and it will board that plane with you, so it’s best to be prepared. If it’s really worrying you, you can make an eating travel plan similar to your normal routine. Do some research on the cuisine of the places you’re visiting; note down restaurants and cafes you might like to try. You can always pack some of your safe foods into your suitcase in case you need them. It’s important to understand what you can and can’t handle, when to push yourself and when to hold your hands up and say I can’t do this; I’m going to nibble on the snacks I brought with me, and that’s totally fine. Most importantly, remember to have fun. It’s not a holiday if you’re thinking about every meal and snack you’re eating, so try to let go and enjoy time with your friends and family, and you’ll get to a point where you enjoy the food too. Don’t let an eating disorder hold you back from having the summer you deserve.

Contributed by Alex