Transitions have been on my mind lately – big life transitions, the transitions that come with the seasons changing, and even smaller, more menial transitions. Perhaps it’s because we are near (or just coming out of for those in college) the end of another school year, and that marks a significant period of transition for students – from one grade to the next, one school to another, high school to college, trade school, or full time working. This time of year signals a significant seasonal transition, and for many, a transition in pace of life or day-to-day routine. 

A reliable, regimented routine has always been a source of comfort for me. So as I sit and mull over the transitions – big and small – we face at different points in our life, I consider how significant transitions can be hard – really hard – for a lot of people, and particularly for those who are in eating disorder recovery. Transitions have the potential to disrupt the recovery work we have done in and around our eating, activity, and social routines. The question is: how do we handle these thoughts when they come up? Having some reframes to work with can be a great way to quickly divert your thinking when an eating disorder thought creeps in.

Below are 5 eating disorder thoughts that may arise during various transitions in life, along with recovery reframes to challenge them:

1. Seasonal Transition

Eating disorder thought: “I pulled out a box of summer clothes today. These shorts do not fit the way they did last summer, and I’m feeling upset and self-conscious. Maybe I should stick to no snacks and not eating after 7pm for a few weeks so I can feel comfortable in my old summer clothes.”

Eating disorder recovery reframe: “Taking care of my mind and body is more important than fitting into a certain size or piece of clothing. I have done a lot of healing to be able to enjoy summer in the body I am in. My body naturally fluctuates and changes, and that’s okay. Instead of restricting and punishing myself, I can focus on how much healing has taken place since I wore these shorts that I don’t feel as confident in anymore. I can wear clothes that fit me comfortably and make me feel confident, and this may mean buying some new clothes that help me do this!”

2. Relationship Transition

Eating disorder thought: “Now that I’m in a new relationship, I need to look perfect and make sure my partner finds me attractive. I need to start going to the gym every day again so I can achieve my *ideal* body.”

Eating disorder recovery reframe: “I am lovable and worthy of love. This is independent of my body size or appearance. I do not need to change my appearance to receive love and acceptance. My partner loves me for who I am, not just my physical appearance.

3. Phase of Life Transition

Eating disorder thought: “I notice that my metabolism seems to have shifted as I have gotten older. I’m going to pass on these cookies I made for my family; I should probably avoid eating desserts now that I am getting older to help prevent weight gain.”

Eating disorder recovery reframe: “My body will change throughout my life and that is a natural and healthy process. I do not need to (nor should I!) deprive myself of foods I enjoy because of a fear I have worked hard to face and overcome. I will release the arbitrary expectations I have constructed in order to control my body as I age, and I will enjoy this dessert.”

4. Career Transition

Eating disorder thought: “I have to wear *work clothes* now, and I’m feeling discouraged that my old clothes aren’t fitting the way they used to. I really should drop a few pounds to make sure I look a certain way in the clothes I will be wearing.”

Eating disorder recovery reframe: “My skills, knowledge, and hard work are what will help me succeed in my career, not my physical appearance. I can focus on my goals and aspirations without being distracted by my body size or shape.”

5. Social Transition

Eating disorder thought: “I just joined this new club at school, and a few of the people I have met in the club are really thin. I’m struggling not to compare my body to theirs, and I’m feeling envious of their bodies. I’m feeling like they won’t accept me in my current body.”

Eating disorder recovery reframe: “I can be my authentic self and still be accepted and valued by others. My worth and value are not determined by my physical appearance or how well I fit in with a particular group. Just like the other people in this group are made up of many more important qualities and characteristics than what they look like, so am I. I am going to fight the urge to retreat and isolate; Instead, I am going to put myself out there and try to get to know the people in this group.”

Healing Through Transitions

There are so many life transitions that may seem to invite our eating disorder thoughts back to the forefronts of our mind. Remember that having these thoughts does not take away from the progress you have made, and it does not mean you are falling out of recovery. Rather, it is important to notice these thoughts, consider them, and consciously combat them with reframes that align with our healing, our goals, and the fuller, more colorful life we have entered into through recovery. Let’s get out there and work to challenge our eating disorder thoughts with thoughts that promote the healing we have started in our minds and bodies.

By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC

All images via Unsplash

Sources: American Psychiatric Association, National Institute of Mental Health, and A Better Understanding of Eating Disorders and Genetics

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