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Mental Health

Chewing Yourself Out: Dealing With an Eating Disorder During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I would like to preface this with a huge trigger warning. If you believe that reading about eating disorders will upset you, or you are in a bad place mentally and you do not believe that reading this article will help you, please stop here and try to distract yourself with a pleasant activity. However, if you are seeking help or are struggling with body image at the moment and believe that the tips in this article may be helpful, feel free to continue reading. I hope you will find that something in these tips will help you feel better and learn to mediate your unpleasant feelings. 

For the past eight years or so, I have been struggling with an eating disorder. At my worst, my issues manifested in both mental and physical illness, and at my best (which is where I am at now, I would say) I occasionally feel uncomfortable in my own body. With the help of my supportive family, friends, and therapy, I have come pretty far in terms of self acceptance. Throughout COVID-19, however, I found myself facing an unanticipated challenge; being stuck at home and social isolation were a perfect storm that resulted in a slight dip in my mental health. Going into the school year, I was also faced with a more sedentary lifestyle than I am used to, and moving away from home meant that I was cut off from the immediate support of my family. So, I decided to research how to keep myself from falling into bad habits and get myself into a better mindset. Here are the best tips from what I found through research and personal discovery:

Eat Intuitively 

Intuitive eating has been deemed as an excellent solution to eating disorders. Intuitive eating, as defined by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995, is “a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs.” This method works fantastically for eating disorder recovery and therapy because it promotes listening to your hunger signals. For those of us suffering from restrictive eating of some sort, this method is great because it encourages us to honor our hunger. Sufferers of binge eating disorder or bulimia can also find it extremely helpful to listen to their hunger signals in order to prevent bingeing after restricting for too long or overindulging due to mental restriction.

variety of foods
Photo by Taryn Elliott from Pexels

Repackage Reality

I know that for me personally, one of the biggest challenges when it comes to accepting myself is the fact that many of the women that I idolize or want to resemble are quite slim, or very toned and muscular. Sometimes, I find myself falling too deeply into a rabbit hole of Instagram models and fitness influencers, trying to reconcile these two very different body types and then applying that reconciliation to myself. Let me tell you; it never works. You cannot be muscular and slim at the same time; that’s called emaciation. A helpful practice that I have recently started doing is trying to get myself to understand that A) the fitness model that I am looking at has been working on their fitness for years more than me, B) all of the photos I am looking at are edited with filters or full-on photoshop, and are most definitely posed, and C) looking at my family, there is no reason on Earth as to why I should be as slim as the lady on my screen. Now, this is not to shame any of the public figures I mentioned, but instead to explain that it’s important to realize your reality and what is realistic for you.

black iPhone 4 on a table
Photo by dole777 from Unsplash

Log Off

As a continuation of my previous point, I would highly suggest to cleanse yourself of social media if you find yourself slipping into a bad mindset. There is no better way to reconnect with yourself and your reality than by being present in it. Go for a walk and observe the people around you, maybe visit a friend or watch a movie you enjoy, cook a favorite dish, create something. As you do all of these things—especially activities in public—you will see that first of all, everyone is of a different shape and size, you just add to the mosaic of humanity. Second of all, hanging out with friends or family or just doing a solitary activity that makes you happy can help you realize that there is so much more to you than just your body. Developing yourself mentally and spiritually is what truly makes you yourself, and the positive characteristics you develop can permanently stay with you, while your body will always change.

assorted movies on bookshelf
Photo by Lucas Pezeta from Pexels

Find Another Passion

Eating disorders can be all-consuming — ironic, isn’t it? They will leave your world bleak, make you tunnel visioned, and all your energy will be channeled into your illness. I found that turning my determination and passion toward a different subject or path has been supremely helpful. Whether it be a new skill such as art or skateboarding, starting up a new sport (in a healthy way!), or maybe discovering a humanitarian subject you are passionate about, these are all great ways to channel your energy. Essentially, if you spend your time in other spheres of your life that truly matter, you will find that there is more to life than physical obsession and perfection, and your new hobby can be a great distraction for your low days.

heart stitched into cloth
Photo by Magdaline Nicole from Pexels

Find Your Style

This tip is the most personal one I have in this article, and I do not believe there is any science behind it. Maybe the refreshment of your wardrobe can help you feel like you put a new spin on your life, or that having a new, solid, fun clothing style helps you build confidence. Either way, I found that finding a new style of clothing, or even a change in hairstyle or room setup can help drag yourself out of a rut. Of course, I am not saying to blow all your money on a new wardrobe. However, finding a new style that celebrates your body, makes you feel confident, and helps with your self-expression to slowly build your closet around can be so much fun, and very therapeutic in my opinion. 

woman leaning on wall
Photo by Ivan Oboleninov from Pexels

Having read these tips, I genuinely hope that they have helped you find a path towards confidence and better mental health. Eating disorders and body dissatisfaction are some of the most constant and frustrating, not to mention dangerous, obstacles I have had to face in my life. If you are reading this knowing that you are struggling with body image, I implore you: please reach out for help. Talk to your parents, or better yet, a campus mental health professional or a private therapist. There is no reason in this world for you to be feeling and treating yourself poorly. The best part? You hold all the power to change and help yourself.

Meydan Kronrod

U Mass Amherst '23

Meydan Kronrod is a freshman at UMass Amherst, studying Nutrition on the Dietetics track. She is passionate about preventative medicinal practices, holistic approaches to diseases of lesser severity, and exercise as a mode of stress and illness prevention. She enjoys finding unusual forms of movement that make staying active fun and varied, as well as encouraging a moderate, intuitive lifestyle. Meydan's writing will focus mainly on mental and physcial health, exercise, and occasionally beauty and self care.
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