We are living in a challenging and unprecedented time. Everyone is individually trying to make sense of COVID-19 and the effect it is currently having on their lives. Routines are messed up, kids are home, work is uncertain, stores are closed, and you feel just feel… off. It can be especially challenging for those who are in recovery from eating disorders.
If grocery shopping has been unusually challenging or has caused more anxiety, read on for some tips on how you can best manage it.
When grocery stores are out of the items that my clients usually get, their “safe” foods, they tend to panic. This panic is only intensified by the underlying general COVID-19 anxiety. If you were already on a restrictive diet, the feeling of scarcity that hits you in an empty grocery store is just heightened.
If you put a significant amount of moral weight on the foods you are eating, then the issue lies far beyond a bad relationship of food. Usually eating disorders point to something out of balance within your life that your relationship with food is just a side effect of, not the main issue. Instead of cutting out food right now, focus your energy on how you can cut out negative eating patterns that are not helping you. Use this time to recognize the nutritional quality in some foods you have deemed as fear foods in the past.
Some tips to help you cope with struggling with food more than usual and eating disorder relapses:
1. Create and stick to a schedule – A big cause of anxiety for people right now is having so much unstructured time so creating structure in your life is very important. I have been urging my clients to create routines and set designated sleep and meal times.
2. Eat with someone else – Try to eat alongside a friend or facetime someone while eating. If this is not an option for you, there are even online support groups that offer virtual meals with a peer counselor.
3. Start by choosing less scary foods, once you can overcome the initial fear of eating “bad” foods it becomes easier to add more and more food that you used to restrict back into your palate. Adding variety to your food rotation is key to breaking eating disorder cycles.
4. If possible, take someone supportive with you grocery shopping. This helps calm you down if you get too worked up. They can help you use logic instead of emotion when choosing foods. It also keeps you a little bit distracted, and not as focused on your choices. If you do not have anyone to go with you, try listening to a podcast or music while navigating the aisles, it will help you relax and take your mind off of all of the labels and choices.
5. I frequently talk to my clients about tapping into your “wise mind”. When working with clients, I help them try to differentiate between whether the eating disorder is talking, or if it is their wise mind. Your wise mind knows you need to eat for survival and this mind is the same mind that would talk to a friend gently if they were going through something similar. Try to use this caring voice to snap back at the eating disorder when you hear those intrusive thoughts return. Separate yourself from the negative voice and know it’s not who you really are. Mindful exercise and meditation help with this.
6. Know that your diet right now truly won’t change anything that much. It’s only a few weeks of eating a little bit different. Your body truly won’t change much. What is more important is maintaining your mental health. Stressing too much about your body during this time is honestly very pointless and will actually worsen your health because it will prime your brain for negativity and weaken the immune system.
7. Try to never shop from a panic state, this will just make the shopping process harder. If you find yourself panicking, practice grounding techniques. One great way to bring you back to the present moment it to go through your senses, naming things with each sense.
8. Seek Help from a Nutrition Therapist
I am here to help, I have worked with women around the world that have the same fears as you. I help them work through these negative thoughts, so their fears don’t continue to create a cycle of self-sabotage in their lives. Breaking through this becomes so liberating!! I am deeply committed to helping all of my clients and my community during this time and try to help ease any anxiety I can. You have the opportunity to shift the energy in your life so you can feel like you are part of the solution, and set a better tone for your household and community.
So I am here to tell you, I understand your anxiety. But I want you to take a deep breath, and realize things are different right now so you may have to challenge yourself a little more. Separate the ED from the wise mind. You can do it. You have permission from an eating disorder specialist, nutritionist, and therapist, to enjoy all foods equally at any time, not just during a quarantine but ESPECIALLY during a quarantine.
You can begin to deal with the situation by realizing that this sense of anxiety is temporary and will not last. Eating disorders tend to be a coping mechanism for feeling out of control in other aspects of your life. It is important we set our negative emotions aside, to look at the situation logically and objectively. At the core, we are scared of feeling out of control. It is hard now, but the more we do the hard thing, the easier it gets. This challenge is an opportunity to face an aspect of your eating disorder you haven’t faced and overcome it even stronger.
Use this time if you are still struggling to contact me, as we can have a session to discuss your underlying anxieties and fears of the foods and scarcities that are present during quarantine. I can help you work through your specific fears regarding these foods and come up with better alternative solutions to this often-unrecognized problem during this pandemic.