They say that the college years are the best of your life, but everyone is a mixture of nerves and excitement when those years begin. College students recovering from anorexia have additional challenges unique to them that planning for can be important.
Make a (Meal) Plan
Jokes about the “college diet” are widely circulated for a reason. College is a time when most young adults, who have been provided meals by school and their guardians for so long, are now on their own.
This often means a lot of microwaveable dishes, Ramen noodle, and cereal for dinner.
While humorous, for a college student recovering from anorexia, the concept of having no support or accountability for what they are eating might be scary.
Learn about your college’s meal-plan options and the kitchen situation in your dorm so that you can process with your nutritionist and therapist on how to navigate this change healthfully.
Whether you are going to college nearby or far from home, it is important that you don’t become disconnected from recovery-focused support.
If you are maintaining the same therapist, nutritionist, doctor, or support groups as you had before beginning school, consider how your scheduling and daily life changes might impact these appointments, meetings, or sessions. You may find different times of the week convenient or more triggering and need to adjust these interactions to make sure they do not fall by the wayside.
For those moving far from home, particular planning needs to be taken to create a new support system in your new city. This can be daunting, but, will ultimately provide comfort that, even as you start a new beginning, you are surrounding yourself with support to maintain your recovery.
Support you may want to plan beforehand is a therapist, nutritionist, and primary care doctor and it would also be helpful to find support groups that are in the area, as social support is incredibly beneficial to maintaining recovery.
Support is not only professional or recovery-focused, as college is a prime opportunity to open up to new relationships.
Feel comfortable advocating for yourself as you meet new people. If they focus heavily on body image, eating patterns, or diet culture, they might not be your people, and that’s okay!
Remember That You Control Your Narrative
Often, people that struggle with anorexia report challenges with the concept of control, with many believing that anorexia is “a struggle for control, for a sense of identity, for effectiveness, and for competence ,” which also sounds like the transition to college in a nutshell.
Individuals with anorexia are at risk when they go to college because anorexia is viewed as “a desperate attempt to compensate for an underlying sense of ineffectiveness and lack of control experienced in the rest of the individual’s life” and college is absolutely a time when one might feel a lack of control over their life .
Remember that, while anorexia once stole your story and began writing it for you, you have since regained power over your own narrative through recovery.
There will be overwhelming moments where you feel lonely, triggered, and afraid.
In those moments, take a deep breath, call a trusted loved one, connect with your strength, and remember that, through this beautiful and complicated period of change, you will make it through and all will be well.
References: Froreich, F. V. et al. (2016). Dimensions of control and their relation to disordered eating behaviours and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Journal of Eating Disorders, 4:14.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published August 27, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on August 27, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC