Self-Care Tips for Eating Disorders
Disordered eating and eating disorders can affect your mind, body, and spirit. You may feel fatigued, scattered, emotionally numb, or emotionally overwhelmed. Positive self-care habits are an essential part of recovering from an eating disorder and establishing healthy, sustainable habits, but when you struggle with eating or body image concerns, even the most basic aspects of self-care can feel challenging.
Professional help is often necessary for eating disorder recovery, but there are also steps you can take on your own to start feeling better.
When you eat, choose foods that feel nourishing and make you feel energized. When you exercise, do it because it feels good to move your body. Stay mindful of the motivation to diet, lose weight, or achieve a certain size or weight and ask yourself what you would do differently if your goal was to feel strong or healthy.
Are you a friend to yourself or a critic? Many people who struggle with disordered eating and negative body image have a negative image of themselves that extends beyond their appearance. They may be critical of any number of things about themselves, including their performance at work or school, how they interact with others, or who they are as a person. This negative self-image can then influence the decisions they make and the way they take care of themselves. People who speak to themselves with criticism also commonly experience feelings of shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, and emptiness.
If you are your own worst critic, practice speaking to yourself with compassion. This is known as self-compassion. Self-compassion involves recognizing when you're experiencing emotional pain, validating that it makes sense and is part of our shared human experience, and doing something to alleviate that pain. This might mean saying something caring to yourself, engaging in a soothing activity, or getting concrete about a tough problem you're facing.
Want to find out more about self-compassion? Take a free self-compassion assessment and learn simple ways to practice self-compassion at self-compassion.org.
This goes for eating, exercise, and any other activity. If you're not sure if an activity or habit is sustainable, ask yourself how long you could healthfully keep this up. Would there be negative consequences of trying to sustain this activity or habit for a prolonged period of time? If so, what changes could you make to create a healthier habit? And who are your supporters in making this change?
Get off social media and get back in touch with what you love in real life. This is especially important if you're prone to comparing yourself to others.
Take a few minutes to identify the good feelings you want to cultivate in your life. How do you want your life to feel? Once you've named a few feelings, make a list of activities, people, or places that help you feel that way. Make a point of scheduling these feel-good activities throughout your week, and if you're having a rough day, pull out your list and choose one thing to try.
Dress yourself in the clothes that express who you really are and make you feel confident. Don't force yourself into trends that make you feel insecure or don't match who you are inside. Add fun accessories, wear your favorite colors, and find the joy in getting yourself ready in the morning.
Start to notice how you feel and what you think throughout the day. This is an important step in recognizing your needs and desires and offering yourself validation and care. Treat your emotions with acceptance and approach them all with the philosophy that they are valid and make sense. Once you've named a feeling you're having, reflect on what that feeling's communicating to you about what you need or care about. Make a point of taking good care of your needs and honoring your personal values.
If you and your friends tend to complain about your weight or bodies, gently suggest that you all ban fat talk together. Try it for a week and treat it like an experiment. Notice what happens when the conversation shifts away from dieting, weight, calories, clothing size, or body shaming others. During that time, you might also choose to intentionally build up the positive talk about other aspects of yourself, such as your strengths, values, goals, and what you're grateful about.
Ready to learn more?
Learn more about eating disorders:
Want to talk to a counselor? Learn more about what we do and how to get started at CAPS. And find out more about CEDAR (Campus Eating Disorder Awareness and Recovery Group).
Are you a concerned parent, friend, or family member? Read these tips on helping someone with a eating and body image concerns.
Enroll in TAO Self-Help. (It's free!)
TAO has self-help modules on calming your worry and letting go of stress in challenging situations. Enrollment in TAO is free for UA students!
Find out more about self-care, eating disorders, and body image concerns with these articles:
An Overview of Eating Disorders on Very Well Mind
9 Truths About Eating Disorders on Very Well Mind
Body Image and Eating Disorders on Very Well Mind
Eating Disorder Treatment and Recovery on Help Guide
Self-Compassion in Eating Disorder Recovery on Psychology Today
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