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Staying In Eating Disorder Recovery When Going To College

Whether you have been in recovery from an eating disorder for several years or a few months, preparing for the transition to college can bring out new changes and triggers in your journey. No matter how solid you feel in your recovery, the unexpected changes that come with the onset of your collegiate career should be anticipated and planned.

Research has found that disordered eating tends to increase during the first year of college and is predicted by prospective dietary restraint and concerns about weight gain [1].  Understanding some of the challenges that may be encountered during the college transition can help you better navigate some of the triggers you may face.

While you cannot predict any or every situation or obstacle that you might encounter, there are ways to ensure that you can maintain your recovery, even in the face of the unknown. After all, you have likely worked determinedly towards your recovery, making it possible for yourself to attend college, even through the many challenges you have come across.

Planning Ahead for the Transition

Planning ahead for your transition to college takes additional effort and dedication, but this preplanning can be helpful for relapse prevention, especially during a time when relapse is a plausible concern. What are some ways to support your recovery from an eating disorder before your transition to college? Here are some helpful suggestions that can fortify the strength of your recovery:

Plan for a continuation of your current treatment plan

Prior to leaving for school, take the time to meet with your treatment team and discuss your continuation of care. Collaborating with the trusted health professionals who have worked with you thus far will be the best way to establish ongoing support for your recovery.

Your team will likely have the resources to connect you with other eating disorder specialists in the area of your college. Make an appointment with your new therapist, dietitian, or support group so that you already have something in place before your move. Taking these steps will allow you to have ongoing treatment without a lapse of time as you make the transition to college.

If you have not been meeting with a treatment team prior to your college transition, consider joining an eating disorder support group in your area.  Some college campuses offer eating disorder and/or mental health resources on campus, so see if this might be an option for you, as well.  Connecting to some form of support, even before you transition to college, can help create a network of accountability.

Discuss possible triggers in therapy

my_redhead_girl_by_violetsunflowerBe sure to take the time to discuss possible scenarios that may occur while at college that could trigger eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. Walk through these scenarios with your therapist or counselor and devise ways to work through these issues.

What therapeutic exercises could you use in such an instance? Who could you call in a time of need? Role-playing and working through these situations in a safe environment beforehand will better prepare you for encountering such situations.

It is also important to feel solid in your coping mechanisms in lieu of engaging in eating disorder behaviors.

Making Time for Self-Care

What do you do on a daily basis to nurture and care for yourself? Do you journal? Take a walk through nature? Enjoy a bubble bath? Maintaining regular time for self-care is vital to supporting your ongoing recovery journey. Research some activities that you could possibly do while at school to help you healthily cope with external stressors.

  • Does your school offer yoga classes that you could attend?
  • Can you take advantage of hiking trails around your campus?
  • Is there a quiet spot you can find for journaling and meditation?

Make it a point to carve out this time in your schedule before being inundated with the busyness of college life.  The majority of college students are learning to balance academics, with work, sports, and a social life, and this can leave self-care on the backburner.  Establishing regular time for this can help you prioritize this important aspect of eating disorder recovery.

Making time for self-care

What do you do on a daily basis to nurture and care for yourself? Do you journal? Take a walk through nature? Enjoy a bubble bath? Maintaining regular time for self-care is vital to supporting your ongoing recovery journey. Research some activities that you could possibly do while at school to help you healthily cope with external stressors.

  • Does your school offer yoga classes that you could attend?
  • Can you take advantage of hiking trails around your campus?
  • Is there a quiet spot you can find for journaling and meditation?

Make it a point to carve out this time in your schedule before being inundated with the busyness of college life.  The majority of college students are learning to balance academics, with work, sports, and a social life, and this can leave self-care on the back burner.  Establishing regular time for this can help you prioritize this important aspect of eating disorder recovery.

Know how to handle your meals and snacks

Your food choices will likely be different on a college campus versus at home or in a treatment center. Work with your dietitian to discuss meal options with the resources that you will have available.

  • Will you be eating primarily in the campus cafeteria?
  • Will you have access to a facility where you can cook your own meals?

Be sure to think through this to ensure that you are able to adequately and regularly nourish your body. Also review your class schedule to plan for your meals and snacks accordingly. If you know you will have a long stretch of classes between meals, plan ahead and pack the snacks and drinks you will need ahead of time.

Recovery Is Maintenance, Not a One-Time Deal

Woman enjoying coffee and college

Recovery from an eating disorder is something that must be maintained and worked at, not left on the back burner. Major life transitions, such as move to college, require planning and preparation to bolster your recovery efforts.

If you or someone you love is in eating disorder recovery and preparing to transition to college, take the necessary steps to ensure that you will not only stay in your recovery while at school, but thrive during this exciting time of your life.


References:

[1]: Sherrie S. Delinsky, et al. Weight gain, dietary restraint, and disordered eating in the freshman year of college. Eating Behaviors. Volume 9, Issue 1, January 2008. 82-90.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer 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.

Updated By: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC on August 10, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 10, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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