The summer months are (finally) upon us! And with that comes all the fun summer can bring: no school, beach trips and the long awaited summer camp.
But, if you are actively working towards eating disorder recovery, learning to navigate a transition, like summer camp, can feel potentially daunting. Or you may be feeling frustrated because you have been looking forward to the thought of summer camp for a while and do not want an eating disorder to spoil it.
We hear you on this. The eating disorder brain thrives off of transitions and the unknown, as this is typically when it can more easily sneak its hands back in and grab a hold of your thoughts and mind.
However, while transitions and periods of uncertainty are challenging they are an essential part of growth in life and especially in eating disorder recovery. That’s why, if medically cleared, we love working with our clients on being able to attend the things that bring them joy (like summer camp) so we can build more positive coping skills for life!
If this feels like it resonates with you personally or for your loved one in eating disorder recovery, keep reading! We are diving into how you can prepare for summer camp in eating disorder recovery.
how to prepare for summer camp in eating disorder recovery
Eating disorders love secrets. When no one knows what is going on, that means no one can interrupt the behavior. Step one in preparing for camp is talking with administration or a trusted source about your recovery process. If you are a parent or a loved one, this may be when you step in and talk with the treatment team about how to best approach this situation. With proper consent, our team of specialized dietitians would be able to discuss treatment and current care or needs with a trusted source at camp.
Providing this information ahead of time allows for you to not only have more understanding of what a day to day may look like for increased preparedness, but to also have another source of support other than your team, family or “home friends”.
If there are potential red signs that the eating disorder is acting up, your trusted camp support person can be there to assist you or know who to go to with this information.
have a plan for meal times
We all know that consistent nourishment is vital in eating disorder recovery. While at summer camp you may be exposed to new, more challenging foods. Having a plan that consists of safe options to help with nourishment mixed with challenge items to help push back against the eating disorder can be extremely beneficial.
Going into a day without a plan or structure can only leave potential room for meals or snacks to be missed. However, you do not have to plan your eating out on your own - that is where your dietitian comes into play! Being able to talk through your camp days and come up with, as a team, meal and snack options can help you feel much more prepared going into your days.
If you want more in the moment support or accountability, linking on apps like Recovery Record with your team can be helpful as well.
have recovery focused activities available
Something we talk to our clients about all the time is the idea of “building a recovery tool box”. Having various skills at your fingertips that are more aligned with your true values and self can help challenge the eating disorder when it (potentially) rears its ugly head.
When in new situations or transitions, like summer camp, we recommend clients have a list of the potential recovery-focused activities they enjoy. This could include: continue meeting with your treatment team if it is a sleep away camp, journaling, podcasts, music, breathwork, gentle movement, etc.
This is something we encourage you to think about before leaving for camp and packing items that would not be available to you in your summer camp location (if it is a sleep away camp).
Try building at least one recovery focused activity into your day to help you feel grounded and aligned with your true self.
As mentioned above, the eating disorder loves when discomfort arises as that is normally when people turn back to old, familiar behaviors. A huge part of recovery is learning to build your window of tolerance when discomfort is present.
Going into camp with the expectation that there is going to be discomfort can allow for you to better prepare when the discomfort arises.
Try this: Start by recognizing when discomfort is present (can you name what is coming up for you? Anger? Sadness? Embarrassment?). Next, assess what would be the most helpful in the moment for you: Distraction? Grounding yourself through breathwork? Looking at nature? Checking in with a friend or family member? Writing out your thoughts?
The options are endless. We encourage you to talk with your treatment team about the best way to start to expect the discomfort and brainstorm some potential strategies once it arises.
remember your "why"
This is a big one! We know that eating disorder recovery is anything but easy AND you are in it for a reason. Revisiting your “recovery why” can be helpful as you enter something new and exciting, like summer camp. If you are feeling unfamiliar with the idea of a "recovery why" this is something that we dive deeper into in our Eating Disorder PATH.
Your “why” is going to be unique to you: maybe you are sick and tired of feeling bullied by your brain, or you want to be able to do things (summer camp, hang with friends) without the limitations that the ED puts on you. Whatever your “why” is - we encourage you to write it down. Keep it somewhere that you can come back to and hold it close!
Navigating any type of transition, like summer camp, is challenging in eating disorder recovery. We want you to know that we are here to support you through specialized 1:1 nutrition services as part of your larger treatment team or through virtual, self paced courses that allow you to connect to your recovery anywhere, 24/7.
No matter where you are in your recovery journey - drop us a line. Let’s start chatting about how we can be the most supportive for you!