Managing Eating Disorders in the Summer


Healthy Living - June 28, 2016
Mark Allen, MD - Acadia Hospital
Most people think that everyone looks forward to summer, especially in Maine, but there is a specific group who struggle more than others during the sunny months:  those with eating disorders.  Imagine…summer is filled with outdoor activities, usually involving a plethora of food and more revealing clothes (shorts/t-shirts/tanktops/swimsuits).  That’s like body image kryptonite to someone suffering from an eating disorder.
General Tips:
Stick to a Routine.
  • Summer time is generally less structured and more relaxed, but it is not the time to lax on your recovery.  If anything, it is vital to maintain those medical/nutritional appointments, therapy sessions, and/or recovery groups
Write out your meal plan ahead of time – three meals + three snacks per day, eating every three hours may be the goal…and should continue to occur on vacation!
Don’t avoid the family barbecue.  Plan ahead.
Social outings are supposed to be positive, but there can be lots of opportunities to revert back to old (pathologic) eating habits.
  • Stick to the meal plan that you have formed with your nutritionist to continue in the recovery process and/or reduce the likelihood of starving or binging.
  • Take your own food if necessary and avoid alcohol if will make it more likely for you to restrict or overeat, and subsequently panic.
  • People, including friends/family or others in recovery, can make ignorant or hurtful comments when they may be thinking they are trying to be supportive. Attempt to ignore them, but don’t be afraid to speak up to let them know when something isn’t helpful to your recovery.  Surround yourself with positive people.
Wear what you want to wear…and on your own time.
  • Don’t feel pressure to wear a certain summer styles until you’re ready.
  • If you’re the only person on the beach wearing an over-sized t-shirt, so be it.
  • Put away the camera or cell phone.
Beware of summer fads touted by fashion magazines at the check-out aisle.
You already have a beach body…you just need to put a swimsuit on it.
  • Just say no to juice cleanses.
 Stay Hydrated!!
  • It is very common for people with eating disorders to correlate being normally hydrated with gaining weight.
  • Water makes up 50-60 percent of body weight and is necessary for proper function.
  • Poor diet + hot weather + sweating à greater risk of dehydration.
  • Drink at least 8-10 glasses of fluid per day for regular activity in a normal climate, but more when the weather is hot outside or during exercise.
Stay active via healthy, non-compulsive exercise to maintain mental fitness.
  • Camping, gardening, leisurely walks, and relaxed bike rides can be great outlets in the summer and reduce the risk of recurrence of disordered eating behaviors.
  • Get some vitamin D.
  • It is challenging to stick to a recovery plan for an eating disorder during all times of the year, but especially during summer.   By following some of the above tips and surrounding yourself with supportive/positive people, this summer will be a fun and healthy one!