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Eating Disorders Do Not Go On Vacation

When we hear the phrase “Summer Vacation” it generally brings a sense of calm, freedom, and release. What’s the first thing you think about when you hear that phrase? 

Growing up, it was music to my ears - No homework, no bedtime, time with friends, and no real responsibilities other than some chores around the house. As I got older, summer vacation turned into bonding time with my eating disorder. I could shelf the perfectionistic drive to excel in school for twelve weeks and give all of my attention to my best friend; my eating disorder. I wanted that perfect ‘summer body,’ and that became my new drive at all costs – cost of social time with friends, cost of things I enjoyed doing, cost of quality time with family, cost of great shame and guilt and, for some of us, it can come at a fatal price. 

For someone with an eating disorder, summer is the most opportune time to perfect our ED behaviors; so while I’m not trying to get an A+ in all of my courses, I’ll turn that inward. During school, my eating disorder would have to cater to my class schedule and with those perceived demands on hiatus, my “free time” can revolve around my disease. “What’s the problem with trying to get fit over the summer and lose some of that weight I packed on during the school year?” The problem is that those of us afflicted with eating disorders are just as regimented about our food as we are our coursework. The time we spent head first in our books is now unoccupied time. Instead I’m focusing on what gym I’ll visit today; I generally cycle between several ones in the area in hopes that no one will recognize how often I’m going, how long I’m there, or see the intensity of my workout. While I’m running on the treadmill, I’m obsessing, “What will I eat? When will I eat? How will I eat? How will I get rid of the calories?” I’m obsessing about exercising after I eat – controlling how little I put into my body.

Then I get home. My family is there. I feel bad. More shame, more guilt. I know what I have done today. My eating disorder gets louder around my family. I wonder if they see it – if they see me. We sit down for dinner. I say I’m not that hungry, I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to put calories in my body because I am telling myself I have done good today, but I am hungry and they are watching and I know they know. They aren’t saying it; I feel shame. My mind is exhausted; my body is exhausted; it’s so exhausting keeping up with my eating disorder.

Over time the exhaustion turns into depression. The depression provides some relief from the shame and guilt and I hold on to that depression the same way I hold onto my eating disorders. I’m stuck in the cycle; the prison of my eating disorder in a time I should be free – it’s summer vacation! I should be living my life – I am dying inside – perhaps literally.

The less we have to control, the more we control what little we have.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with disordered eating, don’t wait to seek help. You cannot beat an eating disorder alone and side effects from these behaviors can be dangerous, even fatal. The sooner you get help, the better your changes of recovery. We can help. Call now for an assessment to determine the best level of care for you or your loved one 800.711.2062