For many, summer is the best season of the year, with a break from school, warmer weather, and fun vacations. However, for people who are struggling with an eating disorder, the summer months present new challenges in managing symptoms and maintaining recovery. Understanding why summer may be more challenging can help individuals who are struggling, or those who know someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, maintain their recovery goals.
Change in Routine
Having a regular routine is important for physical and mental health. For individuals in eating disorder recovery, a healthy routine can keep them on track and help them feel more prepared for what’s in store for the day. However, in the summer, many people, especially high school and college students, find their routines changing.
Eating disorders commonly affect teenage and college-age women, and they may face extra challenges during the summer. High school students may find it difficult to have so much extra free time away from friends, the busyness of homework, and school sports. This can cause increased feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression that can lead to worsened eating disorder symptoms.
For college students, the change in routine is even more disruptive, as many return to their hometown when classes end. College students are suddenly far away from friends and may face loneliness and isolation. They also might have to readapt to living with family members. This can lead to changes in eating habits, exercise, and other everyday activities.
It might be difficult to adjust to a new routine during the summer, leaving room for potentially triggering feelings and situations.
Body Image Concerns
Body image concerns are one of the main reasons why summer may be a difficult time for individuals in eating disorder recovery. During the summer, when much of the world is facing hotter temperatures, people change their wardrobes to tank tops, shorts, and bikinis. But for those who struggle with eating disorders, revealing clothes can cause distress.
One potential symptom of eating disorders is negative body image. This involves dissatisfaction with one’s appearance and constant body checking. Individuals who have an eating disorder may obsess over the way their body looks, their weight, and their feelings toward their body.
Because of negative body image concerns, outings to the beach, parties, or gatherings can be stressful. The thought of others seeing them in revealing clothing can lead to negative thoughts about the body, which could then lead to an increase in eating disorder behaviors.
The Influence of Social Media
Social media makes it easy to compare body shapes, appearances, and lives in general. During the summer, women are more likely to post pictures in bikinis on social media. For women and girls in eating disorder recovery, seeing posts like these can lead to unhealthy body comparisons and negative thoughts that may fuel eating disorder symptoms.
Not only does social media show unrealistic body images, but it also portrays the highlights of the users’ lives. Seeing images of what others are up to, whether it’s attending parties or going on vacation, can lead to feelings of jealousy, missing out, and depression.
Social media creates a lot of pressure for women to look their best. The negative feelings brought on by social media, especially during the summer months, can threaten recovery for many people who have eating disorders.
Tips for Coping with Eating Disorder Symptoms During Summer
Although summertime can be challenging for individuals in eating disorder recovery, these tips can help:
- Shop for clothes that fit comfortably and that you feel good in
- Plan what you’ll be eating ahead of time before attending summer gatherings
- Spend time with family and friends you trust
- Limit social media use and avoid posts about getting “bikini-ready”
- Maintain a structured routine even if it’s summer break
- Remember your recovery goals and your progress
The summer can be a difficult time for those in eating disorder recovery. If you find yourself struggling with eating disorder behaviors now that it’s summer, don’t hesitate to reach out for additional support to help you stay on track.