CW: Eating Disorders
The days are long, the air is warm, and the height of summer has arrived. While I am more than relieved to be relaxing in the summer sun, part of me is slightly less stoked. Sure, no school, no homework, and time for myself takes a lot of weight off of my shoulders, but I can’t help but feel anxious about other aspects of the current hot weather.
This time two years ago is what I would consider the peak of my eating disorder. Whether I was battling anorexia or binging, looking at myself in the mirror was (and still is sometimes) a constant struggle. It made my summer significantly less enjoyable, because I was constantly worrying about my calorie intake instead of the UV index. My break wasted away that summer, and the only memories I was left with consisted of obsessing over my eating habits. I have come a long way since that time period in my life, but recovery is something I still choose every day. And I find it a lot more difficult to do so when the temperature begins to rise.
One of my biggest triggers during the summer months is social media. The first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night is scroll away on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, both of which enforce the idea of a “summer body.” I am here to tell you that whether you are insecure about your weight, scars, or stretch marks – your body IS a summer body. The pressure to look a certain way during the summer is one of the many things on social media that we must work to dissolve. By promoting this concept, we preach an unattainable and ever-changing standard, leaving us forever unsatisfied. For a long time, I tried to fit myself into that small category that only gets more narrow with time. It took much longer than I’d like to admit for me to realize that the only “summer body” I would be proud of is the one that I saw as beautiful, and nobody else. The day that I accepted my own physique was the day that I stopped searching for validation in others.
That being said, social media can also impact us in a positive way when it comes to eating disorders and mental health struggles. Social media can often help us feel connected and like we’re not alone. A small thing that continues to be helpful for me is helping others. In my free time, I find posts on Instagram to share on my story to promote one’s overall wellbeing. Sometimes this includes little reminders that we are each perfect in different ways, that recovery is not lateral, or that we are loved. Letting others know that they can always come to me for a shoulder to lean on or a listening ear allows me to also feel less alone and isolated. Since being a safe place for others, it has gotten easier to open up myself. I have begun to believe the things I’ve been preaching.
Another difficult part of summer for me is summer clothing, and it’s also why it is so important to surround yourself with people who will be there for you and support you. My friends have varied over the years, but I am very fortunate to have the group of people I do today. I’ve surrounded myself with the kind of friends who give me reasons to love myself and continue the path to recovery. They help me understand that I am worth more than any number on the scale, and have helped me in ways I cannot put into words. My friends don’t expect me to wear revealing clothes, and don’t comment when I choose “baggier” options like a hoodie or sweatpants on the days I don’t feel so confident. In the past, I felt obligated to dress certain ways or to feel over-confident just because I was no longer fighting an ED. Now I know that regardless of whether or not I’ll be putting a bathing suit on later or lounging around in an oversized t-shirt, I deserve to eat the same amount. I no longer want anything standing in the way of me enjoying some ice cream after a long day in the sun.
Truthfully, no one is as worried about the way you look as you are. When you look at someone, you acknowledge them as more than their body. Don’t you deserve the same? The memories we carry with us and the way we spend our time is a much more valuable part of life than our appearance. No matter how you look in swimwear, how many times you’ve gone to the gym this week, or how much you did/didn’t eat yesterday, summer (and all other seasons) are times to romanticize our own humanity and embrace life for what it is. The biggest step I had to take in recovery was finding a desire to beat my bad eating habits, and not a day goes by where I regret that.