COVID-19 and Recovery
By: Jessica Cushing-murray
The CoronaVirus, COVID-19, the world pandemic. The chaos that is our lives today.
Maybe you know someone who has been diagnosed with this virus, or maybe you are lucky and you and your family have been safely and successfully quarantining as directed. But whether or not this world pandemic has affected your medical health, a big question is has it affected your recovery?
For those of you in recovery from eating disorders, you know that a big part of recovery is learning to become more flexible: with what you eat, how much you eat, your habits before and after you eat, your exercise routine. So this Coronavirus outbreak is likely having an impact on your ability to do your normal routine.
Whether you are in quarantine, or still working an essential job, all the COVID19 restrictions and precautions might feel like they are taking away from your autonomy. This post is here to remind you that no matter how long you've been in recovery from an eating disorder, it is still important to check in with yourself and with where you are in your recovery journey.
A few things that have crossed my mind over the past few weeks: your appointments with registered dietitians/physicians/psychologists that may have been canceled or postponed, the idea that we need to be "stocking up on non-perishable food" may be changing how you grocery shop, the closures of state/national parks and gyms may keep you from your normal exercise routine. All these have affected me in different ways. In my head I think "well I want to be safe, so I should buy a good amount of non-perishable foods, even if they aren't included in my usual food groups," but that can be stressful. For those of us in recovery, any deviation from our daily routines can be stressful, especially when it involves food.
So, there are a lot of things to consider. But while some of these changes may give you some stress or anxiety, it's a great time to practice the flexibility we learned when we first started our recovery journey. It won't kill us to buy boxed mac n’ cheese at the grocery store, just in case this pandemic worsens. Losing your gym to COVID closures doesn't mean you can't exercise: go outside and go for a walk, buy a yoga mat and sign up for the free at-home workout lessons posted by Chris Hemsworth! And give yourself the flexibility of not needing to achieve at the level you were before quarantine.
It’s ok if you are not working out as much as normal right now.
It’s ok to rest.
It’s ok to just survive.
No matter what the world situation is, now is the time to practice all the important lessons you learned at the beginning of your recovery process and stay strong! Don’t let this pandemic change all the hard work you have put into your recovery. Remember that you are strong and that this too shall pass.
Are you struggling with worsening ED thoughts and behaviors during quarantine? Not Your Average Nutritionist is here to help! Our dietitians are well-versed in telehealth, and have openings for new clients. Contact us today!
Libby also created a video for grocery shopping when you have anxiety that you can view HERE.
By: Jessica Cushing-murray
Jessica graduated from UCLA in 2018 with a degree in Psychobiology and continued her education at University of Hawaii for a Masters in Nutritional Science. Though she loved her first semester studying nutrition, she realized that life is not always a linear process and made the decision to apply for medical school with hopes to be accepted this cycle in 2020. But, as a former collegiate distance runner, Jessica will always have a passion for nutrition and helping people struggling with eating disorders.
I probably have never met you, I don’t know what color your hair is, what your family is like, or where you live. And yet, I know you. A big part of you. The part struggling with an eating disorder, the part that has probably taken over your life and is consuming all your thoughts.
Before you roll your eyes and get ready for a lecture you’ve probably been hearing from your family and friends lately, you should know that I get it. Because I used to be you. You wake up every morning and go exercise and probably put off eating for as long as you can. The question constantly running through your mind is “to eat or not eat.” Some foods are acceptable, you’ve deemed them “healthy” in your mind; other foods are things you will not even consider eating. For me, a big “can’t” food was pasta. I used to love pasta: all kinds, spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccine Alfredo, mac and cheese, you name it, I loved it... But then my ED developed and I just couldn’t, it gave me so much anxiety.
You probably have a routine down filled with things like exercise, coffee, maybe even laxatives. Your friends are worried about you and you’re sick of hearing that “you should talk to someone” or “you need help” because you think you’re fine. I used to think that too.
So I have a question for you: what’s the goal? What’s the end point? Do you even know? How long have you been stuck and unhappy in your eating disorder? Is there an end in sight? I had a goal weight. An “if I hit this weight then I will be done and I will be proud of myself.” Here’s what I know: your goal--whether it’s a weight, a clothing size, a feeling--it won’t feel like you think it will. When I had exercised to the maximum and avoided all the foods I used to love, I hit my ‘goal’ - and I felt more empty and lost than I ever had, and I sure as heck didn’t feel any better about myself. When you’re stuck in an eating disorder, you are trapped in a cycle of dieting, cravings, and exercising, and it seems like there’s no way to stop. You might not even realize yet that life isn’t supposed to be this hard.
Two major things I learned in treatment:
1) Nobody can make you want to get better. You have to want it for yourself. And that’s the hardest part about navigating through an ED: the fact that you have to be the one who chooses recovery. Maybe you think that words like “recovery” and “treatment” sound like total BS things that you don’t need. That’s how I felt too.
But now let me tell you the 2nd thing I learned…
2) There are no shortcuts in life. Every decision you make in your ED is going to have real consequences that you probably don’t know about. I broke bones because of my ED. I have friends with permanent heart problems from their excessive exercise/binging/purging. I know people who’s repeated “I’m fine” and “I don’t have a problem” phrases left them hospitalized.
So yes, it’s your life. And it’s your choice to listen or not listen to the people around you. But it’s your life. Don’t you want to be around to live it and enjoy it? My psychologist once asked me, “Jess, what are some things you are unable to do now [because of your eating disorder] that you would be able to do once in recovery?” The long answer was: I could sleep better, have less anxiety, enjoy ice cream and going out to eat with friends, and again ICE CREAM!
But when I really thought about: what could I do when I finally accept recovery? The short answer was: anything and everything.
This is what I wish for you.
We are looking for dancers with former eating disorder, mental health, or substance abuse struggles who want to share their story using the language of dance!
I'm excited to announce that Not Your Average Nutritionist is helping with Dancing With Ed's "Stages of Change: A Dancers Body Journey" Dance Show Fundraiser.
And we are seeking recovery-oriented dance choreography to showcase!
ALL ages, ALL dance styles welcome! NO AUDITION REQUIRED. Go to our website dancingwithed.com/stages-of-change for more details!!
Submissions are due by August 30th, so don't wait!
The show will be in Oakland, CA October 20th, so please check that you are available.
We are also looking for groups to have booths at our resource fair before/after the show, and sponsors to make this event happen (renting a theatre is not cheap we are learning!). More info at the link above.
Want to watch the show? Tickets are on sale, for this once-in-a-lifetime recovery dance event! Support your local dancers and take in an evening of amazing dance like you've never seen before!
More information: dancingwithed.com/stages-of-change
Can't wait to see you there!
Libby is a non-diet Registered Dietitian focusing on eating disorder treatment and prevention. She approaches health from the inclusive standpoint that any "body" can focus on health regardless of size. She is a ally in diversity.
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it is not a substitute for medical or mental health advice or treatment.