[Disclaimer/ Trigger Warning: I am talking about eating disorders, recovery, mental illness. I am not a trained professional, but this is just my own opinion]
For a bit of background info, I had an eating disorder (anorexia and bulimia) from 2016-2017 and it was one of the most painful yet transformative experiences of my life. This is my personal account of how it feels to be in ongoing recovery from an eating disorder now that "beach body ready" season is upon us.
It's no secret that the majority of the population feels some sort of pressure to be "summer ready," and this usually entails: getting shredded, having clear skin, and sporting an Ibiza-esque tan. I mean, how can anyone blame us with modern media blasting in our face that this is the only acceptable way to look during the hot summer months? It is stressful enough as it is to have all of this flung onto us by friends, family and coworkers, most likely lamenting how frustrating their diet is, or how they feel guilty for missing one 5:30am bodyblast session, but what does this mean for the percentage of people who have suffered through an eating disorder?
For some people who have recovered from an eating disorder, it's probably no big deal that the Summer is here, and they can march through their meal plans with relative ease. But for me and likely many others, it can be a somewhat painful time as old toxic thoughts might start to creep into your head again... So, for you guys or anyone who feels pressure to look a certain way for the Summer (or noted, any time of the year), I have some words which will hopefully help.
1. You are enough.
That probably won't mean to much given that I'm a stranger on the internet, but still, this stranger understands what it feels like to be inadequate. You might feel guilty or awkward when you're not actually changing anything in your lifestyle to accommodate for the hot summer months. This is a good thing!
Why? If you find yourself omitting snacks or even meals to shed some weight for the summer, this is a dangerous slope to embark upon and if you think over it enough, and are aware of what you are doing, you will know this too. A diet is never simply a diet, especially if you've had an eating disorder. It is usually a drastic attempt to alter the way you look with potentially harmful consequences e.g. relapsing.
You have fought so hard to recover and you sometimes have to fight yourself every day, because recovering from an eating disorder isn't like getting a flu shot, it's something that takes constant work and attention. You might feel like it's all too hard and that you want to give up, but think about how you felt during your eating disorder and realise just how far you've come from that place. You are already enough my dear, and you should feel proud of what you've accomplished.
2. You are in your own unique position.
Humans are social creatures, so it can be hard to remain completely autonomous from the mass opinion/ideal, especially when it comes to physical appearance. I fully recognise that an eating disorder is a mental illness, but triggers really can exist anywhere, especially when you are bombarded by information regarding new trend diets/cleanses/bootcamps which seem to pop up everywhere.
Take a step back and think about your unique position. Everybody's choices are their own; so, just because your godmother's aunt is telling you about this amazing detox tea she picked up from Boots, it really doesn't mean that you in any way should feel obliged to jump onto this bandwagon also.
You know yourself and where you are in your journey of recovery, and the fact alone that you are recovering from a serious mental illness should hopefully remind you of the fact that you should just do you.
Stick to your meal plans, and if you feel yourself wanting to "just diet this once," this should be a definite sign for you to confide in your support system (whether that be friends, family or a professional help team) to help keep you on track.
3. What has recovery taught you?
Recovery can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but for me it felt like having wool pulled from my eyes so that I could truly experience what life has to offer with my whole heart and brain.
Recovery has also taught me not to be ashamed of myself, because shame and guilt are huge components of eating disorders, learning to accept and be proud of yourself are therefore huge components of recovery. If you ever receive (which I truly hope you don't) ignorant comments about dieting, or anything that triggers those ED thoughts in your mind, don't be afraid to be kind yet firm about the fact that you have had an eating disorder and that you are perfectly happy where you are- because you should be, you earned it.
I hope that these words have been helpful to anybody who reads this. From my personal experience, I have always found Summers to be particularly triggering for a number of reasons, but taking a step back to check in on myself and how I feel, and then acting on them in a beneficial way has saved me multiple times from a full-blown relapse. You are so strong and beautiful already, and whatever you are going through, I am proud of you.
Now, I'm going to enjoy a nice BBQ with my family and look forward to the sunny summer days ahead.