Managing your eating through a time of turmoil

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27 March 2020

By Hope Virgo, Author and Mental Health Campaigner

There is no hiding this. For people with eating disorders, this uncertainty is going to be hard. And to be honest, I am slightly nervous about it too. When we face things like this it can get hard and we start to notice the cracks in our recovery. We start to feel out of control, so we do what we can to think we are back in control.

Eating disorders affect 1.25 million people in the UK and a high percentage of these are children. This means that when isolating at home, when school isn’t happening, if you are supporting a child with an eating disorder, it adds another layer of complications. From the fear of whether a hospital day unit will shut to whether you can get the food on the table that you know your child will eat. It can feel like an overwhelming list of worry and fear.

When we face things like this it can get hard and we start to notice the cracks in our recovery.

But it is possible to get through this time!  

Firstly, please know that none of us should feel ashamed for what we feel. You are not alone in these feelings! I have had hundreds of people already contact me with their concerns around food, stockpiling and worries. I strongly believe that supermarkets should be stepping their game up and realising that people with eating disorders are massively impacted by this situation. But in the meantime, I wanted to share some practical things that might help you:

  • Write yourself a routine for the day: This will help if you are working, but also to keep your meals and snacks in place. Try not to make it too rigid but allowing some structure will help keep you in the right frame of mind. It is vital that over the next few months we don’t put too much pressure on ourselves to achieve everything, so make sure you schedule in free time, and time for yourself.
  • Take each day at a time! I know this is easier said than done but try and live in the moment.
  • Have a shower each day and get dressed: Yes, wearing joggers can feel amazing (I know how good it does feel), but for me, when I am having a bad body image day I have a tendency to put on a hoody and leggings, and if I do this repetitively it gets me in to a bad mind-set.
  • Go to the shops and get some food you like and feel able to eat: This isn't about stockpiling but ensuring that you have foods in the house that you feel comfortable with. Take your time when you do this and make sure you get the support you need - how about putting your family or support network on facetime so you have that support, whilst respecting the rules around social distancing?
  • If you have a fear of bingeing, try putting the food somewhere in the house where it is less accessible than the kitchen. Alternatively, write a meal plan to help you stick to your meals throughout the day.
  • Work out your support network: we all need people around us that we can trust and be honest with. People who can keep an eye on us if we need it, people who check in with us and take our feelings seriously. I struggle with this as I am normally the “fixer”, the strong one – but do you know what? It is okay to need that extra support.
  • Focus on your motivations for staying well: I remind myself that the eating disorder never actually did anything for me!
  • Communicate: eating disorders thrive on isolation so turn your mealtimes into social activities over the phone, or on Skype!

These are difficult times, times of uncertainty and fear. There is no hiding that. Each day you may feel a mixture of different emotions and that is okay. All your feelings are valid. And during this period of uncertainty, it is even more important to take time each day to do something for you.  

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