When you’re in recovery from an eating disorder your mind is often full of thoughts about your next meal, the next challenge and the next time you’re going to have to choose recovery over the disorder. With all of this going on, it can be very easy to neglect self care. But self care is crucial to the recovery process. Chances are if you’re in recovery you have a treatment team (of some sort) that helps support you when you need it. With the end goal being that you will be able to support yourself.
It’s also important to remember that when you’re in recovery from an eating disorder self care doesn’t just mean bath bombs or getting your nails done. It means doing the things you neglected to do for yourself when you were in the depths of your disorder.
EAT! Eating your prescribed meals in recovery is probably the number one way we have to take care of ourselves. It’s hard and often feels impossible - but it has to be done. In order to work on the underlying factors of your disorder, your body has to be stable enough to think, feel and explore.
This one may seem obvious, but physically allowing yourself to rest is extremely important in your recovery. Relaxing it’s beneficial for you physically and mentally. Relaxing does not make you lazy. Relaxing does not make you weak. In fact, it makes you strong. Some people may choose to distract themselves as a form of relaxation. This could include watching TV, a movie or reading a book. For others, it may be helpful to reflect in some fashion. This could be meditation, mindfulness exercises or journaling. Regardless of what works best for you, relaxing will recharge you for your next obstacle in your recovery.
Another important form of self care in recovery is knowing when to stop, say no and setting boundaries. This is often hard for individuals in recovery. Often times, lack of boundaries contributed to feeding your eating disorder. This one takes time and requires a lot of patience with yourself. Start small, with something that’s not too hard to say no to and work your way from there.
I will admit, it is hard to think about taking care of yourself when you’ve always thought your needs didn’t matter. But they do. You need to be taken care of just as much as all the people you have poured your heart into. Self care is a stepping stone and useful tool on the journey to self love. Stay strong, don’t give up and give yourself a little pat on the back. The work is hard but will pay off a million times over in the end.
Written by: Katie from @edrecoveryblog
When self care isn't fun… when I have to force myself to truly carefor myself - that's when I struggle. Makes sense right? It's so easy to journal when I have nothing but good things to say. It's easy to meditate when I'm being really mindful.
I hear self care being coopted to mean anything luxurious: baths, face masks, roses, chocolates, movie dates. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of these and often budget solely for these self care treasures. But it moves us away from recognizing the nitty gritty parts of self care, where it does feel like a chore, where I'm angry about making the time, but grateful afterwards.
So here's the thing, what is self care actually supposed to do? What is the intent here? For me, self care is something that…
Ice cream and a book can certainly hit some of these but the minute I'm tested with a frustrating situation or some other obstacle - poof. Think of it like your phone - maybe you've charged it 100% but come at it with an hour long video or roaming challenges, you've got maybe an hour or two until its caput. But what if instead of just charging it, you upgraded the battery or deleted some apps so you could use that energy more effectively? This is the difference between flashy self care and nitty gritty not always fun but long lasting self care.
This summer has been a struggle, I've been in constant transition which has always been a challenge for me. After a morning of anxiety and panic attacks, my partner and I talked about what I needed to manage this while caring for my mind and body. "Well, you haven't been taking your meds." Looking confused, I reminded him I wasn't on any meds for my anxiety (no pill shaming here, please do whatever works for you!). He likened my regular exercise and meditation (two things that really help with my anxiety) to taking medication, "I mean, it helps right? And just like if someone doesn’t take their prescription meds for anxiety or depression, they may struggle, wouldn't it be the same with the things that work for you?" Lightbulb! I hadn't been doing the self care that actually helped, I had just been filling time with surface level luxuries. Did I want to make the time to be active almost every day? No. Did I want to commit to meditating more often? No. Do I want to now? No, not really. It sounds much better to get lost in Netflix or slumber. It sounds much more fun to fill every moment with adventure around my new city and make new friends. But I won't get far on these, these do not consistently check off the bullet's above. I need to make time to take my meds, we all do.
Sometimes we have to do the self care that we don't want to. We have to make plans, go to therapy, meal prep, meditate, etc. even when it seems like the opposite of the luscious pampering sold to us from societies understanding of self care. So ask yourself this, what do you want self care to do for you? And what things will check all those boxes for more than just one moment? What kind of meds do you need to take and how can you commit to taking them?
Written by: Rae Thomas
Emily Estes lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her Goldendoodle pup, Miss Adley Mae. Recovery from her own struggle with an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression has led Emily to create community and resources to empower others on the journey. Emily owns Sage Nutrition, LLC where she serves as a Registered Dietitian. Her work revolves around her motto that "food is meant to nourish our bodies, not nurture us."