Coping with body image pressures in recovery

We know that a lot of people can feel an unprecedented amount of pressure during the summer months when it comes to body image. The warm weather can mean we expose more skin than usual as we opt for weather-fitting clothes. Our socialising may change too, with groups of friends heading to the park for long afternoons and picnics in the sun. All of this can be incredibly hard to navigate when living with an eating disorder. Here, we share our top tips for coping with body image pressures during the summer months.

Check in with your expectations for yourself

Experiencing negative body image can be a really overwhelming. You can’t leave your own body, which can make it evermore painful and anxiety-provoking to sit with yourself during these tense moments.

It can be particularly difficult if we feel we have to go out and socialise. It’s worth taking a few moments to check in with yourself as the invitations start coming in.

Ask yourself:

Am I expecting myself to show up for every single social situation that I’m asked to attend?

Am I expecting too much of myself and my internal resources and resilience?

Communicate with your community

Be honest with yourself about your needs, and give yourself permission to communicate and reach out to those people who feel safe and who know that every day that you choose recovery is a triumph, and you should be proud of that.

By priortising your needs, you’ll preserve your energy for those events that will serve you in your recovery.

Lean into your trusted friends, those individuals who understand that you’re navigating your sense of self and who respect your boundaries around how much time you can spend socialising.

Learn to assert your needs

Boundaries are what we set so that we don’t reach our limit in relationships. They are the rules we decide to live by that help us remain safe and secure as we navigate our daily lives.

They are developed based upon the messages, beliefs and experiences we receive and internalise as we grow up through childhood into adulthood. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” when needed and protect themselves emotionally and physically.

Ask yourself:

How long do I feel comfortable being out and about and around other people?

Are my needs fuelled by eating disorder behaviours, or are they true to my well self?

Dress in a way that supports your recovery

Consider how you can wear clothing that supports your recovery, but is also respectful of the fact that you have an eating disorder that requires gentleness and compassion in recovery.

Are you wearing clothes that feel comfortable in terms of texture and fabric? Are you wearing clothes that make you feel good? Such as the colour and the style of the outfit.

Are you able to dress up in a way that feels less about the body and more about who you see yourself as? This can take some time to experiment with.

Engage in distraction or soothing skills to de-stress

In moments of overwhelm, do your best to shift your focus away from the body. It might be helpful to create a list of distraction techniques or self-soothing skills that can help you to deactivate and down-regulate.

Know that you are allowed to have an escape plan or a safe space that will allow you to pause and breathe, before then coming back into the social space. 

Hold compassion for your experience

Take a moment to recognise that sometimes it’s really hard to be in your body, and it’s ok to feel that it’s hard, but it’s also courageous to step forward and say: “This is not what’s important right now. Relationships, memories, and being in my body is what I’m leaning into. This is where I’m putting my energy.”

Body Image in recovery

Kendra, Senior Occupational Therapist, explores how body image in therapy should be approached with sensitivity and compassion.

“Body image is something we have to tread carefully with in recovery.”

Navigating body image in eating disorder recovery

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