This is a stressful time for all, but if you’re suffering from an eating disorder the current pandemic may be especially triggering for you. Whether you have binge eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, body image issues or any other kind of disordered eating behavior – this will be a challenging time.
To help you confront this new reality, here are 7 habits you will need to instill and hold on to. These habits will equip you with the tools needed in order to face this pandemic while also dealing with an eating disorder. It is a new challenge but not necessarily a set-back! By adopting a number of strategies you will be able to build your own support system that will help you face this and other future challenges.
In the last couple of weeks life has changed drastically for everyone around the world. We are being told to practice social distancing as much as possible. Schools and some outlets deemed to be non-essential have been asked or made to close. This means that gyms have been asked to close too, as these are places where disease can easily spread. Organized group gatherings have been banned in most countries and businesses have been told to allow their employees to work from home if possible. We’ve also been advised to have an adequate stock of food supplies, medicines, and hygiene products in order to limit our trips to the supermarkets.
Coronavirus – what is it?
The new coronavirus that causes the infectious disease COVID-19 is a virus that exhibits flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some people may carry the virus without ever developing any symptoms. Others may carry the virus for several days before symptoms appear, and they may not necessarily feel very unwell even if they test positive for the virus.
Since COVID-19 is spread by droplet infection it means that you are most likely to contract it if you are close to someone infected who is sneezing and coughing. However it also lives for some time on objects that have been touched by infected persons. The virus may get into your body through the mouth, nose, and eyes. Since we touch many objects in public it is important to avoid touching our face and to practice frequent hand hygiene – by washing with soap and water for 20 seconds when these are available, or using an alcohol rub with more than 70% alcohol.
In the following paragraphs I want to present you 7 strategies that you can implement to overcome this stressful period of time and recover from an eating disorder (binge eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia etc) and body image issues as well as body dysmorphia at the same time.
1. A new challenge
Since routines have changed and gyms have closed, those who have been frequent gym-goers may start worrying that they will not be able to burn enough calories. It is time to face a new challenge! If you have been eating well and your metabolism is active, not going to the gym for a couple of weeks will not mean that your body is going to change significantly. In binge eating disorder and any other kind of eating disorder, knowing that you will not be able to go to the gym should motivate you to work on your food and body freedom. Nurture a healthier relationship with food and your body and free yourself from the emotional dependence on the gym and the “need“ of burning enough calories. Try to face this time with a new outlook, not as a disaster but as a challenge.
2. You don’t need a gym to be healthy
Remember, all our grandmothers and grandfathers who experienced the 2nd World War did not even know what a gym is and also survived. It is just that the diet and fitness industry has taught us we need to visit the gym on a regular basis in order to be in optimal health. However, nothing can be further from the truth!
The healthiest people in the world are those who live in the so-called “Blue Zones“ (Okinawa/Japan, Sardinia/Italy, Nicoya/Costa Rica, Ikaria/Greece, Loma Linda/California). Those people are known to be non-gym-goers but rather practice regular movement. What I’d like to tell you by that is you don’t need to go on crazy workouts in the gym to be healthy. The secret to optimal mental and physical health is “moving your body in a pleasant way“ rather than “killing yourself in the gym“. “Moving“ your body can mean going for a walk into nature, dancing through your house, planting seeds in your garden or even doing a bit of yoga on your balcony.
3. Stay in touch with your therapist, treatment team, friends and forums
Your therapist or treatment team are likely to be available over the phone or on video calls. Make sure that you carry on with your therapy during this difficult time. If there are self-help books that have been useful to you in the past, this may be a good time to re-read them. It is also important to stay in touch with family you don’t live with, as well as with friends or loved ones. If you have elderly parents who are self-isolating, call them every day to check in and cheer them up. If you are part of an eating-disorder forum or group, make sure to stay in touch. You can also join my Professional Support Group for receiving some extra support.
It’s important to help each other through this difficult time and try to limit the amount of negative news a bit. Choose to lift each other up and share fun, interesting, and varied news instead.
4. Keep some routine
Establish a routine that is good for your body and mind. Get plenty of rest but make sure not to over-sleep. Remember to shower regularly and get into clean clothes. Don’t spend the day in bed or on the sofa as this could make you feel frustrated and depressed. See this time as a great chance to occupy yourself with things you’ve always wanted to do. Take an interest in information that you can find online, and take advantage of the fact that many books, courses and articles are available online. This will help you to nurture your mind and stay positive during this pandemic. Cultivate an attitude of curiosity so that when we are finally over the worst of this virus and we can return to normal life, you will be an even better person than at the start.
5. Positive affirmations
In order to frequently remind yourself of the importance of your recovery try to find out the “Why“ you are doing this. We only stay on track if we can justify our actions with a big reason and value behind it. If we don’t have any reason to recover, we won’t stay on this journey for too long.
Also remind yourself of your achievements and of how far you’ve come in your journey, keep notes, letters, and objects that convey positive messages in places where you will see them often.
Another final thought would be to see this time as a valuable opportunity to focus on yourself and your mental and physical wellbeing. Try to look a bit deeper into yourself and what’s going on there. Isolation can be a very scary situation since it forces us to deal with our inner world. Most of us try to avoid that because it can be a painful experience but also an eye-opening one.
6. Try out new food and DON’T diet
Remember that you don’t need to worry about food shortage – we are not in the midst of a war and our food supplies are not being threatened. You may not always find the brand or food alternative that you prefer (hint: try smaller local shops rather than large supermarkets) so this may be a time to try new things and stretch out of your comfort zone. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Especially when you deal with an eating disorder or a body disorder then you tend to always eat the same kind of food. Because you are aware of the calories, you know how much you can eat from it and because of this you remain in your safe zone. Again, this is a great opportunity to free yourself from these thoughts and step out of your comfort zone.
DON’T GO ON A DIET NOW!
It’s of great importance to mention that you should NOT go on a diet now! I know many people tend to think they need to eat less now since they’re not exercising, however, this can be a fatal mistake. During the coronavirus it’s necessary for you to boost your immune system to stay healthy and strong. By reducing your food intake you cut out essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs now to keep you healthy.
7. Be compassionate with yourself and others
View yourself as a whole person, not just as your eating disorder. This means that you need to realize that your mind and your body have various needs that should be met, and that you should try to stay aware of these even more than usual at this time. It is also an important time to recognize our social responsibility; it is a time to be kind and aware that our actions may have an effect on others. We should realize that there are people working hard in order to keep us safe and by obeying the recommendations given to us we are looking out for other people’s safety. Also we should show some understanding and empathy for people who lose loved ones, or their jobs and with that their complete financial basis. It may be that at this time we need to put some of our usual worries on the back burner.
Above all, stay healthy and safe!
Here’s the video: How to deal with an eating disorder during covid-19
Professional Support Group: Eating Disorder Free
Article about The Symptoms Of Body Dysmorphia