Eating Disorder Recovery Amidst COVID-19

May 15, 2020

Written by Maddie Hunt

My ED Journey

I started struggling with disordered eating when I was about 16 years old. After being sexually assaulted in high school, I felt so much shame around my body and I fell very quickly into a downward spiral of unhealthy habits. Skipping meals. Exercising 3-4 times a day. Eating the minimal amount of calories I could. Avoiding bread, pasta, fats, etc.  Turning down offers to eat out with family and friends because I wouldn’t have control over my meal.  Every waking moment, I spent worrying about food and how my body looked.  I felt so much anger, sadness, and guilt around what had happened during my abuse that it transferred over to the way I treated my body for years moving forward. Rather than feeling comfortable and at peace within my own skin, I felt disgusted and embarrassed.   

As I began to process my trauma more (thanks to Yoga, meditation, and talking with trusted loved ones who supported my healing journey), I also began to treat my body more kindly.  I began to feel at home in my own skin once again and was able to reject my body dysmorphic habits.  However, healing is not linear.  Eating disorder recovery is a constantly evolving process with good days and bad days. 

ED and COVID-19

Right now, our society is experiencing a collective trauma.  Individuals are losing their jobs.  Thousands of people are getting sick.  Businesses are closing.  Men, women, and children are stuck in abusive homes.  Stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high during this uncertain era in our global history.

Although I have thoroughly processed my sexual assault and have developed strong tools to keep my body dysmorphic thoughts at-bay, this time in quarantine has been triggering.

I’ve been at home all day with no external stimuli like work or social gatherings.  I am constantly in the vicinity of food and mirrors.  Instagram is overloaded with diet culture talk.  Everyone and their mother is on a new exercise regimen.  I have experienced a lot of change in my life like having to move out of my apartment and losing my job. To put it plainly: it has been a challenging and mentally exhausting time.

If you are experiencing negative thoughts about your body or are feeling anxious from the pressure to maintain a certain physique while in quarantine, know that you are not alone in that experience.  Individuals worldwide-even the “strongest” and “toughest” men and women around-are struggling with body dysmorphia during this collective trauma.

Reframing Negative Self-Talk

  • Take a moment to ask yourself this simple question: what is one negative story that I have been telling myself recently?
  • The #1 negative story that has been especially prevalent for me during quarantine time is:
  • My body is ugly. Not good enough. Looks horrible.
  • Rather than harshly judging my thought pattern, I am giving myself a moment to sit with it, breathe, and then begin to reframe:

1. Who are these thoughts benefiting?

2. My body is a precious gift. It is healthy. It is able. it gives me the opportunity to better serve. It allows me to do all of the things I love in life: practice Yoga, walk in nature, hug my friends and family, and travel the world.

3. I am not my body. I am not my mind. My true essence is something deeper than that. Think about someone you love.  You don’t just love them for how they look or think, do you?  You love them for their heart: who they are at their core.  Is it important to keep my body and mind healthy in order to be able to fulfill my purpose in life? Absolutely. But it is detrimental to identify as my body or as my mind. To obsess over how my body looks on the day to day. To allow my self-loathing thoughts to consume every moment.  I am prioritizing connecting in with my heart.

Be Kind to Yourself

Quarantine can be especially hard for anyone who has struggled with a distorted body image or disordered eating. I urge you to take a moment to try to reframe. To throw out your scale. To unfollow workout accounts or diet accounts that preach weight loss or physical gain. To reach out to loved ones when you need words of encouragement. To sit with yourself in the mirror and reflect upon all of your insanely beautiful qualities (physical and non-physical).

Let’s treat ourselves how we treat our loved ones. Let’s be kind to ourselves during an already difficult time. Let’s support one another in accepting ourselves as we are. Let’s recognize that we deserve a life better than constantly worrying about how our body looks-we all know that there are far more exciting things in life to focus on️.

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