Having an eating disorder is challenging enough in every day life, so when your routine gets turned upside down, it can understandably be very overwhelming. This could be due to limitations on shopping, not being able to see as many people and other things thrown into the mix. It’s important to remember that recovery is still possible, even though lockdown may be challenging. You can get through this.
If you have had treatment for an eating disorder before, you may have learned a lot but it may not have prepared you for how to deal with a global pandemic. Taking some ideas from therapy, however, we have found that having a game plan or a ‘strategy’, helps many of our clients when battling an eating disorder. We believe that the following steps to creating a strategy can help you manage your eating disorder at this time, and in the future. We understand that it isn’t as simple as just making a mind-map and planning what to do to tackle your ED, but we believe that it is a start in the right direction. So if you suffer with an eating disorder yourself, or have a loved one who does, please continue reading as we guide you through the steps that will build you your game plan for managing an eating disorder whilst in lockdown.
When creating any strategy, the first point of call is to identify where you are right now.
At such a chaotic time, it’s hard to remember to check in with ourselves and how we feel, but this step allows us to be intentional with acknowledging how we’re coping during lockdown. It is also important to remember that if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. Just because you are faced with challenging situations does not mean that you are failing at recovery.
Checking in with where you are right now might mean thinking about your physical, emotional, and mental state, which can be tricky. Sometimes we might not even know ourselves, or find it hard to accept. Just remember that the fact you are even thinking about these things is a step forward. You do not need to weigh yourself for the ‘physical’ part of this step at all, but think about how your body feels. Is your body tired? If you’re a very visual person, you could draw a picture or create a mind-map to depict where you are at the moment.
The next step would be to then think about where you want to be, and to visualise this. This could be being able to eat dinner comfortably with your family or, if you are alone, actually eating three meals in a day and snacks when your body tells you it needs them. Whatever this may be, write it down and visualise it and how it would feel. Know that the journey won’t be straight forward or easy, but I promise you, it will be worth it.
After this, you can think about the things you can do right now that will help you get to where we want to be. Practical things like journaling and art therapy allow you to check in with yourself and how you’re feeling daily. Another thing you could think about is looking at support. Although physical support groups may not be running, there are so many that are accessible online for free. While it can be tempting to withdraw during a time of physical isolation, it’s important to maintain that support group. If you don’t know where to start or feel anxious about going to a support group, our sister charity, S.E.E.D, have informal Drop In sessions every Friday at 1pm – 3pm. You can just pop in whenever and ask a few questions, or just ask for some advice. They also have a Support Group from 7 – 8.30 every fortnight, providing more formal self-help skills. The links are posted every Friday on S.E.E.D’s social media, and can also be found here on our website.
If you feel you can only face making a small change at this moment in time, but have a long way to go, think about how you can break that distance down into little steps, and how you could build one upon the other over a period of time. Plan these out and challenge yourself to meet them at regular intervals. Make all your goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound, so that you can see the progress you make!
Finally, looking back and reviewing what you have done would be the last stage of creating a strategy. This could mean looking back on your journals or being intentional with revisiting how you feel now. Ask yourself questions and try to be honest with yourself: how have the support groups helped, etc? I know that recovery isn’t as simple or straightforward as just following a plan, but it is a start. For what it’s worth, I believe I in you. I may not know you, but I believe that you can recover and you can have a future where you are not controlled by your eating disorder.