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When I was preparing for college, my support team was concerned I might relapse into old eating disorder habits of restricting and over-exercise. At the time, I didn’t see my recovery as fragile and I didn’t see much of a chance of going back to my old ways after nearly two years of recovery. While I didn’t relapse, I did have more struggles than I thought I would, and it was far from easy.
I think this was due to my eating disorder was a coping mechanism of sorts.
Like many others, when times get tough, stressful, or just unfamiliar, I naturally turn to the behaviors most familiar to me. For those of us who have had eating disorders, this is often times behaviors and habits we developed when struggling with the eating disorder. Big life changes like moving or starting a new school or career can cause stress, and a lot of the time stress pushes us back into old routines and habits.
What can we do to ensure we don’t fall back into Eating Disorder habits when life changes cause stress? I’ve got good news for you: you have already made the first step.
The first, and in my opinion most important, part of making sure your recovery stays strong during times of transition is recognizing you are prone to falling back into old habits.
By simply recognizing I had the possibility of falling back into the routine of restricting and over-exercising when I went off to college, I was already on the lookout for those behaviors to pop up. Knowing you are prone to this helps you guard against it.
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The second recommendation I have is along the same lines.
Don’t let little slips get swept under the rug. Small slips may seem harmless, and I have told myself many times “this one time doesn’t matter,” and “it is just one meal,” etc. The problem is doing this even once or twice can lead to a return to the mindset of disordered eating. There have been studies showing even otherwise healthy individuals with no prior history of eating disorders quickly fall into a mindset of disordered eating with the restriction of calories, so it is very important to not let little slips turn into big relapses. Again, we are prone to this type of mindset, and restricting or engaging in other disordered eating behavior makes us even more prone to fall into a full relapse.
To sum it up, transitions are often stressful.
Moving, starting a new school or job, or even starting a new semester with unfamiliar courses, can all cause stress. Because of our previous experiences and predisposition to return to old eating disorder habits, it is important to pay close attention to make sure this doesn’t happen.
The easiest way to do this is by recognizing you are prone to falling back into these behaviors and by not letting little slips go unnoticed. You’ve come a long way, no matter where you are on your journey towards recovery.
Don’t let a small slip due to a time of transition ruin what you’ve been working toward.
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