Getting ready to go back to school is a stressful time for everyone, but for those struggling with eating disorders, it can be anxiety-inducing, hectic, and overwhelming. From new schedules to managing meal plans in a new environment, the change from summer to school can pose new challenges. By planning, practicing, and getting support, those in eating disorder recovery can get back to school with confidence.
Being prepared for key situations at school can be extremely beneficial in eating disorder recovery. Situations that are helpful to plan for include snack breaks, lunch, dormitory meals, and stressful moments like tests or debates. For food-related moments during school, the most important thing for those in eating disorder recovery is to stick to their meal plan.
In elementary, middle, or high school, those in recovery can pack lunches that work for their meal plan or they can look at the lunch menu the day before to plan what they will eat the following day. Knowing what meals will come at school can alleviate stress and allow individuals to plan for their meals and stick to recovery. For those in college, dormitory food and eating food in a large cafeteria can be a source of stress. Before going to college, it may be helpful to think of what your meals will look like. Some colleges even allow non-students to eat at their dormitories and cafeterias–if your college offers this, it may be helpful to eat a meal there prior to the start of school. That way, you can start school knowing what to expect.
Those living with eating disorders may use the illness to manage stress or anxiety, which is why it’s beneficial to have a plan for stressful school moments. By being able to anticipate stressful school situations, individuals can plan positive coping responses that don’t involve disordered behaviors. For example, one might plan to see friends after a stressful test or one might practice mindful breathing every 30 minutes when studying.
Eating disorder recovery is a practice of continually choosing the next best choice. While it may sound silly, practicing recovery behaviors before school can be beneficial. The more individuals practice recovery behaviors like deep breathing and other self-soothing behaviors, the more their bodies can adapt to the practice. For example, the more you practice deep breathing to relieve stress, the more you will train your body to be in that relaxed state, making the practice easier as time goes on.
Additionally, individuals can practice certain school occasions like snack time or dormitory meals. For this practice, a support network can come in handy. They could accompany you to a college cafeteria or to a buffet-style meal to practice for mealtimes.
Having a strong support network is crucial in recovery. A support network can consist of friends, family, treatment peers, or a treatment team. The most important thing is that these individuals are accessible if you reach out for support. Having a support system may look like having friends to eat lunch with or having people you can text when you are struggling.
If you are looking for support at school but no one knows about your eating disorder, it can be helpful to tell a friend or two. Remember, eating disorders thrive in secrecy, so each time you share your story, you are taking a powerful step against your disorder. By confiding in a friend about your illness and recovery, you can gain a support person in your school life, which could make meals and daily activities a bit easier.
By preparing for the start of school alongside a strong support network, you can start the school year off with confidence in yourself, your abilities, and your recovery. Eating disorders work to destroy an individual’s self-esteem, which can make new situations particularly challenging. By understanding how your eating disorder affects you and working with a treatment team on unraveling the illness, you can start to gain confidence, body acceptance, and freedom. If you need support during this time or are ready to start eating disorder treatment, reach out to The Emily Program at 1-888-364-5977. We’re here to help.
Copyright © 2019 - Emily Program. All rights reserved.