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Sometimes the small wins can make the biggest difference

We asked some of our Ambassadors to consider times when they’d dealt with similar situations to what people with eating disorders may be experiencing now. Catherine shared her thoughts with us.

How have you coped with times when you haven’t been able to access “safe foods”?

I would try and prepare for these situations in advance and try to introduce a bit of a “bad” food each day. After a while you realise nothing changes from this and then you can increase to a little bit more of a “bad food”. Making it part of my daily routine made it normal and I slowly began to trust myself and wider food choices. Obviously this may not be an option for everyone but if people can eat a little bit regularly it may not seem as overwhelming. I also found it useful to have something planned to distract me after these foods such as a short walk outside or watching TV.

How did you look after yourself to minimise illnesses with a potentially lower immune system?

I used to wrap up warm and listen to my body. When I needed sleep I slept and didn’t try to push myself too much. This can be a hard thing to get your head around but I found that with a rested mind I was able to make more rational decisions once I had finished resting. 

How did you cope if eating disorder appointments were cancelled?

I was very lucky and had a large support network at home. I would talk to my mum about how I was feeling and she used to go away, ring Beat or do some research and then come back with a response. 

How did you manage not being able to exercise?

For me exercise was something I never gave up. I continued to exercise throughout recovery however the intensity was less and instead of hours in the gym it would be a walk with family or friends where the focus wasn’t the distance or the length of time but was on the conversations we were having.  

How did you deal with guilt over struggling with eating disorder behaviours in the face of other significant issues?

My mum used to say to me “if you had broken your leg I would be at home looking after you and this isn’t any different”. It’s important to appreciate that just because it may not be visible it is still an illness and it is okay to need support when you are feeling down. 

How did you manage if you had to swap food brands?

This used to freak me out so much, I’ve had many tantrums at my mum as she got the wrong brand. I used to take my time to calm down (usually 10 – 15 minutes) and then write down why this was upsetting me and if there were any facts to back up my thoughts. Usually there weren’t so then I would slowly introduce this food into my daily life. Eventually it got to a point where I stopped telling my mum the brands I wanted in order to try and overcome this explosion of emotion. 

How would you handle a lack of routine? 

I would say you can still have a routine even if you are self-isolating! Plan each the day the night before and try to rethink what you can do as a “routine”. Even if it’s as small as every morning “I will get up, have a shower, brush my hair and make my bed”. Sometimes it’s the small wins that can make the biggest difference.

Contributed by Catherine

If you're worried about coronavirus, you can look at our guidance addressing some of the questions around the impact of the illness on eating disorders. You can also join our new online support group, the Sanctuary, set up to support anyone with an eating disorder who may feel worried and isolated right now.

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