Eating Disorder Recovery in College: Advice From a Current College Student Who is Overcoming Recovery Obstacles
By Caroline Roberts, EDC Intern
Please note that the person interviewed for this blog post is a personal contact of the author and not a current or past client of The Eating Disorder Center.
I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with a current college student, who shall remain anonymous, who is in recovery from an eating disorder. This individual struggled with anorexia throughout the duration of their high school career, and has experienced relapses in the form of binging and purging episodes and restrictive habits along the way. However difficult their battle with their eating disorder has been, and continues to be, they have made immense progress in overcoming their disorder. Now, as a college student, they are learning to adapt to the challenges that this new environment poses to them and their eating disorder. And they have some advice to offer from their experience thus far!
*For the sake of this blog and the requested anonymity we will refer to the interviewee as Jane*
This wasn’t so much an interview (or if it was, it was the world’s shortest one), as I simply posed one question to Jane:
Based on your experiences battling an eating disorder in a college environment, what advice do you have for someone who is in a similar position?”
To this prompt, Jane responded with many helpful tips, derived from their own experiences.
Disclaimer from Jane: “Well I think it’s important to first acknowledge that I by no means have been perfect in my recovery. Recovery isn’t linear and that is one of the hardest parts of battling an eating disorder.”
This is extremely important for anyone struggling with an eating disorder and for someone who is supporting a loved one through recovery. It is easy for someone in either of these positions to get discouraged from one bad day after a streak of progressive days, however, every day in recovery (good, bad, or in between) is all part of the process!
Tip #1: “Surround yourself with people who care about you, and who you can trust”
Jane explained that they realize this is applicable to all eating disorder recovery, whether you are attending college or not, however they expressed that it’s even more important to find that support system while away at school. They explain that it was both relieving and unnerving to no longer be surrounded by people that knew about their condition. Relieving to not be “known for” someone that has an eating disorder, but unnerving to no longer have their parents, siblings, and close friends holding them accountable. Jane quickly learned that they would not be able to maintain their recovery journey alone, and found support for their eating disorder after confiding in friends and even some faculty members on campus. Having support made the recovery process seem so much more attainable, because they weren’t fighting this on their own.
Tip #2: “Keep a journal to write your thoughts in”
Once again, Jane acknowledged that this is a pretty typical exercise that therapists recommend to their clients, but further expressed that they, personally, had never taken journaling “so seriously” until they were “on their own." As Jane mentioned earlier, they did find comfort in the friendships they made so it wasn’t actually as if they were “on their own," yet sometimes their eating disorder would make them feel as if they were alone. Toxic and irrational thoughts would develop in regards to food, body image, and self worth. Thoughts that were beyond the scope of what Jane felt comfortable sharing with their new peers. So, journaling became somewhat of a safe haven. They explained they would write down whatever terrible things they were thinking on a piece of paper and then crumble the paper up, as a way to release their negative thoughts.
Tip #3: “Prioritize all forms of self care”
Jane expressed that college can be chaotic with classes, a social life, obligations to sports and clubs, etc. These commitments combined with trying to set up your entire future can be overwhelming, to say the least. Amidst all of the chaos, it can be easy to have an inconsistent sleep schedule because of going out with your friends or spending hours in the library studying. However, they explained that once they started prioritizing their health in these ways, it allowed for a healthier relationship with food to develop as well. When Jane created a routine and did things that helped them to feel healthier and happier as a person, like going for walks outside or putting time into ‘hair care,’ it put into perspective that food would also make them feel that way. Jane explained that these hygienic habits also acted as a distractor from toxic and irrational thoughts.
Going away to school is overwhelming for any individual, regardless of their relationship with food. It can mean being around new people, having more responsibilities, and sometimes being hours away from home. It’s scary! The added stress of having to battle an eating disorder can seem paralyzing. Jane says to “take it one day at a time.” They still face daily battles with their eating disorder, but the tips they mentioned above help them to keep battling and to keep moving in the direction of recovery.
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The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We also provide eating disorder therapy in Arlington, Virginia and virtually throughout Virginia. Additionally, we offer eating disorder therapy virtually in New York (NYC), Florida, and California. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.