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Managing Seasonal Change in Eating Disorder Recovery

Although in many parts of the country it still feels like summer, fall has officially begun!  While many people look forward to the fall season, the seasonal change and the season itself can cause an increase in stressors for individuals who are in recovery from an eating disorder.

Here are five important tips to help you effectively navigate the seasonal change in recovery.

Maintain routines that are important to your recovery. There are probably a number of routines you have established as part of your recovery process, like meeting regularly with your treatment team, ensuring you are meeting your nutritional needs throughout the day, and engaging in self-care activities on a routine basis. Life events like returning to school or traveling for the holidays can pose barriers to maintaining these routines that have helped you along in your path to recovery.  Be sure that you prioritize planning to maintain these routines in the face of the changes that the fall season can bring.

Plan ahead for situations you anticipate being challenging. Many of the activities that come along with fall, like holiday meals and tailgate cookouts, can be challenging, even for people who have strong recovery in place. If you anticipate some of these scenarios being difficult, this is a great opportunity to revisit your relapse prevention plan, speak with your treatment team, and plan ahead for coping skills that you can use to navigate these situations successfully.

Seek a balance in social time and alone time that works best for you. Fall is often a social time of year, and it is important to strike a balance between social time and alone time that works best for you.  Each person is different when it comes to preferences and needs around socializing, and it is important to respect your own limits and needs.

Keep a close eye on your mood. For some, the change in seasons can bring about a change in mood*. Even though you are in recovery, it is still important to monitor and attend to changes in your mood, so you can intervene promptly if you find your mood is worsening.

Don’t be afraid to reach out.  The seasonal change and the season itself can cause an increase in stressors for individuals who are in recovery from an eating disorder. It is okay to ask for additional support from family members, friends, and your treatment team during this time – that is what makes you strong in your recovery. Keep in mind that support can come not only in the form of providing a safe place to talk but also in the form of helping with logistical challenges that can pose barriers to appropriate self-care, like providing childcare or assisting with household chores.

While maintaining recovery requires a certain degree of thoughtfulness and planning, we also hope that you immerse yourself in the joys that the fall season has to offer! Take a drive in the country to enjoy the changing of the leaves, curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book, go for a hayride or a stroll through a corn maze, or find a fun Fall-themed activity to attend.

*Of note, there is some evidence to indicate that individuals diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder are more susceptible to a worsening of symptoms of depression associated with the change in seasons and that this may impact eating disorder symptoms as well.

About the Author

Alyssa Kalata, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and Clinical Trainer for Veritas Collaborative, a healthcare system for the treatment of eating disorders. Alyssa firmly believes that all individuals and families have the right to competent, compassionate care and her approach to treatment is one that balances understanding and validation with a focus on cultivating change.