Anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia knows how challenging the summer months can be. Without school, responsibilities to occupy time, and an increased emphasis on body image, summer break can be one of the toughest times of the year. This is why it’s not surprising that many eating disorder sufferers relapse during the summer months.
Because any kind of break from your routine, including spring break, holidays, and even vacations, can bring some of the biggest challenges to eating disorder sufferers, it’s always a good idea to be prepared to protect your recovery and well being. Some guidelines that will help do just that are included below:
-Create a food plan and stick with it. Vacations and other breaks bring big changes to your daily routine, especially when it comes to mealtimes. Developing a food plan ahead of time will help you get through the summer without any big setbacks. Work with a nutritionist or dietician to develop a plan if possible, and be sure to know what your trigger foods are and how to avoid them.
-Schedule in eating times. It can be easy to forget to eat when traveling or changing your routine. Making a meal schedule along with a food plan can be a big help, and be sure to nourish yourself with healthy snacks throughout the day, every day. These will help keep your energy levels up. Also be sure to never skip meals, or use a vacation or travel schedule as an excuse to do so.
-Make time for rest and relaxation. The purpose of summer break or taking a vacation is to get some much-needed rest and relaxation. So be sure to get enough sleep every night, eat balanced meals, and take care of your well being. Keeping stress levels down will help prevent relapse and will just help you feel good. It will also help you better regulate your appetite.
-Be flexible. Traveling will almost inevitably include some kind of change to your plans or other unexpected interruptions. These things present opportunities to put the practices you’ve learned in recovery into action. Learning to be adaptable in moments like these is important, as well as dealing with stress and difficult emotions. Meditate, journal, take deep breaths, go for a walk, or simply call someone in your support network if you need help getting through any difficulties.
-Make time for light exercise or other physical activities. Regular, moderate physical activity is the key to maintaining both physical and mental health. Going on a vacation or changing your routine can make it challenging to continue an exercise plan. It’s a good idea to make an exercise plan along with a food plan to be prepared.
-Find a support group. This can be especially helpful when you are traveling or otherwise spending time away from your regular support network. If there are no support groups in the area where you’ll be spending the summer, a phone call to a sponsor, therapist, or supportive friend is also a good option.
-Don’t forget to have fun. It can be easy to forget what summer vacations are really about when you’re managing an eating disorder. Be sure to make time for enjoyable activities such as swimming, hiking, reading, sightseeing, or any other activity that you find enjoyable and relaxing. Even just making some time for yourself every day to nap, rest, or journal is important for your health and recovery.