Coping with change during eating disorder recovery (and, well, always) can be an extremely difficult task. It happens time and time again where our clients are re-telling how they have noticed an intense increase in intrusive thoughts or behaviors. When we get into the nitty gritty of what is going on typically some sort of change or transition is at the root of it.
Why is coping with change so hard?
Humans do not like to feel uncomfortable. Because, well, it's not comfortable! Eating disorder behaviors typically develop, initially, to help you be able to process, understand or deal with difficult emotions or situations that have happened. Simply put: eating disorders normally have a reason for presenting themselves.
We understand that eating disorder behaviors are maladaptive and dangerous. However, it is important to recognize the purpose that they serve and some contributing factors as to why you may return to them when times get tough. Ultimately, your brain wants you to be okay. So, when coping with change it may revert back to the easiest, fastest way it knows how - typically through ED behaviors. (Side note - eating disorders are incredibly complex, individual and nuanced. While this desire or drive to meet your need to feel in control or more comfortable, it may not be the only contributing factor).
You may be thinking that that makes sense but why transitions. Honestly, transitions and change are some of the most uncomfortable times. When things are new they can often times feel scary or out of control. Insert: an increase in disordered thoughts or behavior urges to help you be able to manage or exert control onto a situation.
When coping with change, we understand that our brains are really just trying to take care of us the best way they know how it can become a little easier to set ourselves up with more productive ways to manage difficult emotions when they arise.
Coping with Change Eating Disorder Recovery
Practice loosening your control grip
Oof. This one is not easy but is essential to start practicing. The idea of control can significantly impact transitions, especially in eating disorder recovery. The question we come back to with our clients is:
"If we are listening to the eating disorder voice and participating in behaviors - how control are we actually?"
What we mean by this is that eating disorder voices will normally dull your true self and personal values. When coping with change if you are acting in line with what your eating disorder wants how does that align with your true values as a human outside of the eating disorder?
When we start to realize that we actually are not in control when participating in eating disorder behaviors we can begin to acknowledge what we are actually in control over as humans. For example, we are not in control over other peoples' thoughts or opinions of us, certain life events or genetic predispositions. However, we are in control over, how we respond to others and definitely how we treat ourselves.
Identify necessary boundaries
This is another biggie! Naturally, when you are coping with change your schedule or needs may shift. It may be an opportune time to check in on your boundaries.
Are there new ones you may need to set? Are there old ones that just don't apply anymore? Just in with yourself to understand what may feel the most supportive to you as your navigate transitions.
Check in on your sleep schedule
Take this time to catch up on much needed ZzZs either by going to bed earlier, sleeping in later, or both if you’re able to. Sleep is really the best form of rest of recovery for our bodies, yet something we often don’t get enough of.
Not only can sleep reduce stress and improve mood and energy, but it can also boost the immune system which can be helpful in times of uncertainty and stress. Use this time to slow down and experience the many many benefits of getting enough sleep.
Though your daily routine shifts when coping with change, your body still requires meals and snacks each day in order to provide you with the energy and nutrients to function at its best. Without adequate nourishment you will likely feel increasingly run down or even more stressed out in uncertain times.
Build your coping skills toolbox
As mentioned above, when coping with change, the intrusive eating disorder thoughts are normally the go-to. However, are there ways to find skills that align more with your true values outside of your eating disorder? Some examples could be: journaling, spending time in nature, talking it out, art, music, a hot shower. Find what works for you and provides that same sense of calm or emotional expression. It may not be as instant as some of the eating disorder behaviors but, given more time, we promise it will be exponentially more helpful in the long-term!
Remember, coping with change in eating disorder recovery is hard. Give yourself grace. Practice using the presence of intrusive thoughts and behaviors as a red flag for increased self care and potential boundaries. You are not expected to "get it perfect" as you navigate recovery. Perfect does not exist! All you can you is work to understand your needs and adjust moving forward. As always, we are here for you as a nutrition resource.
Begin Working with a Virtual Nutritionist in Massachusetts
Here at NourishRX, we understand that coping with change in eating disorder recovery is extremely difficult. It can also feel like a daunting task to make sure you're getting accurate nutrition information amidst a sea of diet culture-infused nonsense. Working with a virtual nutritionist can help make this task a little easier. To help you feel supported and informed, virtual nutritionists can provide one-on-one guidance to ensure you reach your health goals.
If you're interested in working with us:
Other Nutrition Services Offered at NourishRx
At NourishRx, we offer a variety of services to help you get the nutrition and body-positive support you need. We know it can be difficult to find the right resources, so we're here to help you along the way. This is why we offer Nutrition Counseling, Intuitive Eating Support, Support for Parents and Caregivers, and Meal Planning. If you are feeling like you want more information, we also offer a Questions and Clarity Call to answer any questions you may have before taking the next step in your journey. No matter what your nutritional needs are, our team is here to help.