In today’s post, Alison from A Sustainably Simple Life shares how covid impacted her past eating disorder. Thank you so much to her for sharing this for others who may be suffering ❤ I absolutely love her blog so make sure you check that out xx
I run my blog, A Sustainably Simple Life, with my good friend, Krista. We write about living a sustainable lifestyle with a focus on how affordable it can be to make green choices. I live in the Pacific Northwest, close to Vancouver, BC where I absolutely love our rainy grey weather. I’m so grateful to Caroline for being willing to talk about tough topics like EDs and for allowing me to share some of my story below.
My Unexpected Covid Side Effect
When the pandemic started, I expected to get Covid-19 at some point. I work at a homeless shelter and am constantly exposed to those that are exceptionally vulnerable to the virus. A year into pandemic life and vaccines on their way, I thought I might actually be in the clear, but this February I received my positive test results and the news that I had Covid.
I expected a lot of things when I got sick. I expected to feel like I had a bad flu, I expected to have breathing issues and I expected to be fatigued. But what I did not expect was to have my eating disorder triggered.
My ED History
In my early 20’s I struggled with what was termed “disordered eating.” I used varying methods of restriction and purging for my diet so I never fit into any specific label. I was not anorexic or bulimic according to the doctors. Regardless of the labels, it was a problem that plagued me for years. It not only affected my health but also my relationships with others.
With the help of a kind therapist, I was able to work to overcome my struggles and developed a healthier relationship with food. This was over 15 years ago and, if I’m honest, I thought it was something that was permanently in my past.
It took a year of working on the frontline during the pandemic for me to get Covid, but it finally happened. And it was on my birthday, no less! When I went to get tested for Covid, I really did not expect a positive result back. My symptoms were so mild (lack of appetite and stuffy nose) that I could not fathom being sick.
My results were back in less than a day with a positive test result. Very quickly after that, my symptoms became worse. It was so hard to know what to expect from having Covid. The people I talked to all seemed to have different experiences. From one day to the next, even my experience seemed to vary.
How Covid-19 Triggered My Eating Disorder
One of my ongoing Covid symptoms was a loss of appetite. Not only was I not hungry, but I also had no interest in food. At first, I was grateful because that meant I did not have to worry about groceries, but then I started thinking about losing weight.
It didn’t feel like an intentional choice to start restricting my food, but more like a habit that had been formed from three weeks in isolation with no appetite due to a virus. There was this scary (and unexpected) familiarity and comfort that came with restricting my food intake.
Something deep within me began to believe that things would be better if I just continued restricting and losing weight. Many people will label an ED as a need to control a situation. I struggle with labelling my situation like this because of the pull I felt with my eating disorder, though it is likely a contributing factor.
Like Caroline talks about on this blog, I am enough as I currently am and losing weight won’t change my worth. I’m intimately connected with that thought because of my history. I have distinct memories of reaching target sizes during the worst stages of my ED and none of those target sizes or weights ever made me feel better. In fact, they often brought me feelings of shame and embarrassment. It was such a vicious cycle.
What I’m Doing to Work Through My ED
Recovering from an eating disorder is a process. These are a few things I am doing right now to help me cope and recover.
1. I talked to a friend
As soon as I realized that I was going down the slippery slope of my ED, I let a friend know. I know how easy it is for secrets to fester and grow. In my life, I’ve found that letting things out into the open helps to lessen the burden of a struggle. I also knew that there would be some accountability if I shared what I was struggling with.
2. I started paying more attention to my body
My eating can sway to both ends of the spectrum–from emotional overeating to restriction–so I’ve been paying more attention to what my body truly needs. With Covid, I’ve suffered from cognitive issues that a lot of people refer to as “brain fog.” I notice this gets a lot worse if I’m not eating enough, so am working to take better care of my body’s nutrition.
3. I started doing yoga
One of the activities that previously helped me through my eating disorder was taking some beginner dance classes in a supportive, relaxed studio. Dance allowed me to appreciate my body and helped me be more aware of my physical self.
Since Covid restrictions prevent me from being in dance classes and at-home dance classes are not possible with my space, I decided to try some at-home yoga classes via YouTube. This has been a nice, gentle way to be more present in and appreciative of my body again. One channel I’ve been exploring is Yoga with Adriene. She has videos for all levels including beginners like me.
4. I follow positive and uplifting social media content
Social media can have a lot of triggering content and images. I’ve always been conscious of who I’m following because I know that certain accounts can impact how I’m feeling in a negative way. This even goes for friends and acquaintances! One account I really enjoy is Danae Mercer as she keeps it real on what social media vs. real life looks like. The reminders about appreciating my body are truly helpful.
If you’re looking for some more ideas and strategies to help you in your recovery, Caroline has a great post: 5 Things to Let go of in Recovery.