How can we prioritize eating disorder recovery in the midst of COVID-19? Social distancing is the newest buzzword of our culture, and #FlattenTheCurve is our latest hashtag as we all stumble through this unprecedented reality of the coronavirus, so I will be honest—it's an inconvenient, anxiety-inducing time to have a complicated history with food and exercise. But despite the shifts in my routine or the lack of control and normalcy, I choose to still prioritize my eating disorder recovery in the midst of COVID-19.
Anxiety and Eating Disorders
In my experience, people in the early stages of eating disorder recovery often rush their progress. Unfortunately, this rush adds pressure to an already stressful situation, which can cause people to experience more setbacks than necessary.
Traveling in recovery from an eating disorder poses some challenges. How big those challenges are will depend on where you are in your recovery. I've recently returned from a week-long vacation to Cuba with my family, and even a decade into recovery, I faced my fair share of hurdles.
There is a vicious, rampant correlation between eating disorders and bullying—the epidemic is real, and children of all ages can be vulnerable to the mental and physical ramifications. In the United States alone, 65 percent of those with eating disorders have reported that incidents of bullying caused their behaviors to manifest, and 40 percent of children or adolescents are mocked by their peers for weight-related issues.1 This data, compiled by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), also notes that when bullying occurs, a victimized person will often experience bouts of insecurity, poor self-esteem, body image distortion, and an urge to numb the painful emotions. So in order to protect children from these adverse effects, it's crucial to understand the epidemic scale of eating disorders and bullying.
Mantras for eating disorder recovery work for me. For example, I don't meditate. I have trouble sitting still for more than a few seconds. Even when I do yoga, it's the sweat until you vomit sort, not the calm, restorative kind. All this is to say the idea of mantras do not come easily to me, but using mantras for eating disorder recovery has been a powerful and subtle tool that helps me overcome negative thinking.
This is a vulnerable admission for me to write, but my 15-year battle with an eating disorder has made an impact on my sexual desire. There—I confessed it openly. I pushed back against the shame, embarrassment, and insecurity that too often silences me on this particular issue.
For those of us who have or have had eating disorders, the feeling of a full stomach can be an extremely disconcerting sensation. Sitting after a meal while feeling full can cause anxiety and guilt. I've been in recovery for nearly a decade and I still sometimes struggle with feeling full, but learning how to be okay with being full was an important step in my eating disorder (ED) recovery.
I don't believe in eating disorder triggers. Sounds pretty bold, right? We live in a world awash with eating disorder (ED) trigger warnings and those of us who are in ED recovery are constantly warned to avoid our triggers lest we slip back into old habits, and I straight-up say I don't believe in them.
Many people are often warned against exercising in eating disorder recovery, but that doesn't mean that exercise cannot be part of a healthy, vital recovery journey. In fact, regular and unapologetic exercise was a crucial part of my getting better.