You Are Strong – A Summer of Opportunity

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Yes! It’s finally summer! This season brings assurance that you don’t need to take a coat out with you and you may even need your sunglasses, but it also brings a number of challenges. It’s perfectly ok to be anxious about the summer months. Everyday can be a struggle with an eating disorder and there are particular aspects of summer and the summer holidays that can fuel negative thoughts even more. Here are a few examples of things I’ve struggled with and tips on how to combat them.

Firstly clothes. The cobwebbed summer selection suddenly bursts out of everyone’s wardrobe and there are shorts and dresses everywhere. It may only be 20 degrees but in Britain that’s the best we can hope for so it seems that everyone is dressing for the beach. I’ve always been more body conscious at this time of the year as friends put their bodies on show in a daily attempt to keep cool, catch a tan and look fabulous. Why don’t I look like that in a dress? I could never pull off that outfit. The negative perception I have of my body starts to fester to the surface. You may feel pressure from peers to wear certain clothes, to not wear your jeans in these temperatures and to show a bit of skin. Wear whatever makes you comfortable and what you feel good in, you don’t need to justify your choice of outfit to anyone. And you know what, you look great in anything! Now the whole “Bikini Body Ready” campaign the media portrays is just a sham. All you need is a body (check) and a bikini (check). Put the two together and you have yourself your very own home-grown bikini body that is beautiful and unique.

Secondly, food and drink. Ugh. Suddenly everyone is suggesting having a few in the beer garden, having a picnic or grabbing an ice cream in the park and it can feel almost wrong to turn these invites down. As I’ve spoken about in my previous blog, spontaneity can be a real challenge and I particularly find it difficult to eat and drink out impulsively. Depending on how far along you are in your recovery process, it may be a great opportunity to challenge these thoughts and try to be spontaneous on occasion.  However it’s also fine to say no. It’s more than ok to have your packed lunch with you, to say you don’t fancy an ice cream today.  But if you do fancy a Mr. Whippy, grab the opportunity with both hands and go for it. This is not a sign of weakness for ‘giving in’; it’s a sign of strength for challenging your thoughts and taking a step towards recovery. I assure you – nothing bad will happen.

Thirdly, changes in routine. Particularly for students the summer means a long three month break from the usual routine and often means moving back home. Depending on your home life, this can be an extremely stressful time. I found the prospect of going home for a long period of time very daunting as I knew it meant I would no longer be fully in control of what and when I ate. When dinner was suddenly set for 6pm every evening and meals included foods I would never normally touch the panic set in. My military eating pattern was under threat and I started to over think every single thing I was eating and constantly comparing it to the foods I would normally eat under my own regime. Thankfully my parents were very understanding and I was able to prepare a lot of my own meals and eat at my own times but I also used the time to challenge negative thoughts about certain foods. Talking to your family about your eating disorder may be something you’d rather not confront right now, but for me it made the long summers at home much easier to cope with. I was able to eat meals with family whilst maintaining a healthy level of control. If you’re not ready for that, try to have one friend at home who is aware of your illness to keep you accountable or regularly message a peer from university who understands your situation. Changes in routine can also result in boredom and more time to over think so try to keep busy. Get a summer job, volunteer, draw up a to-do list to fill your free time. Most importantly, do not allow yourself to become isolated during the summer months; it’s the sunniest time of the year!

Enjoy this time of year, be comfortable, be happy and be you.

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