The approach of spring is generally a time of hope and excitement. After months of hibernation combined with the dark and cold, the long days and warming sun tend to inspire a sense of good things to come.
But for people with eating disorders, the warm weather only evokes anxiety and dread. The insistent thoughts to lose weight grow in strength, and the fear of summer clothes escalates. It's a time of year when the eating disorder thoughts feel even more justified and the inclination to restrict food or do what it takes to lose weight feels most important.
Body image thoughts, often the most rigid and inflexible of all eating disorder thoughts, feel even more true in the spring. The absolute necessity to create any sense of comfort through weight loss often seems like the only escape. The warm weather gives rise to the foreboding sense of exposure and vulnerability.
I find that it is very difficult to break through all of these thoughts and feelings of someone with an eating disorder. The most effective way to help someone is to find perspective from the experience.
Each person will have had to face the spring before. Each spring elicits the same feelings and fears. The key is to recognize that the rounds of torture through restricting, binging, purging and any other symptoms do not actually help in the end.
Any short term comfort from hiding in the eating disorder is an attempt to stave off the fear that the warm weather brings. But the symptoms provide no real relief.
Sometimes the panic about the coming summer is so great that it is very difficult to find that perspective. But even reiterating the fact that allowing the eating disorder symptoms to ramp up will not make this time of year any easier can helpful.
The purpose of leaning on perspective is to bring back compassion into one's thought process. The eating disorder thoughts are punishing and cruel. Perspective brings with it distance, and through distance one can find compassion again. Kindness towards oneself is always the best first step away from the eating disorder.