The weather is warming up and summer is making its appearance! For most, this time of year is a time for relaxation and fun. For an individual recovering from or dealing with an eating disorder, summer can be a time full of triggers.
Pressure to Lose Weight or Change Appearance
As the weather warms up, there seems to be a change in clothing and overall attire. People are more likely to show more skin. You’ll often hear people talk about achieving a “beach body” or getting “bathing suit ready.” The big misconception is that people must lose weight or build muscle to be able to enjoy the summer. This is a toxic way of thinking that ultimately contributes to disordered eating and exercise habits.
Increase in Physical Activity
Seasonal activities such as swimming, boating, and hiking are popular during the summer. Having these physical activities available can be a trigger for someone who struggles with compulsive over-exercising.
Lack of Structure
The summer months often bring a sense of freedom, especially for children and adolescents who are out of school. For someone in eating disorder recovery who thrives on structure, this can be a difficult time. Loss of structure can disrupt a normal eating schedule and feel overwhelming, leading to disordered eating.
Seasonal Life Events
The summer is also a transition period for adolescents and young adults. Middle school, high school, and college graduations can be stressful milestones. The pressures of starting at a new school or finding a job may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as disordered eating.
Large Social Events
Summer is a popular time for family reunions and other events. Comments about weight or appearance, even ones that are intended as a “compliment,” can reinforce eating disorder thoughts. The idea of eating in front of other people may also be difficult for someone in recovery and there may be limited access to safe foods on an individual’s meal plan.
How to Cope With Summer Triggers
As we head into the summer season, here are a few things to remember:
- Set healthy boundaries on summer interactions. For example, if you don’t feel comfortable at a family reunion, bring a trusted support person and limit the time you spend at the event.
- Wear clothing that fits you and that you feel comfortable in; remember that you don’t have to wear a revealing outfit if that makes you uncomfortable.
- If you choose to participate in summer sports or activities, remember to take breaks when your body feels tired. If you feel hungry after exercising, allow yourself to intuitively eat.
- Practice mindfulness and healthy coping skills.
- Reach out to a trusted person if you need help adjusting to life transitions.
- Talk with a therapist to help you manage triggers and maintain recovery.
If you are dealing with an eating disorder or are in recovery but need additional help this summer, we encourage you to reach out and get help. At Avalon Hills, we are dedicated to helping you reach your health goals in a long-lasting way.