All sorts of things can affect an eating disorder - where you are, what's going on, routine (or lack of it), who you're with and the season - specifically the temperature.
As we approach what is potentially going to be the hottest weekend on record here in the UK, lets talk about this.
In the winter, it's often 'easier' to hide in baggy jumpers and big boots. But when temperatures hit the 30's (mid 80's+ F in old money), the ED voice can become more challenging
Summer typically brings more social events and opportunities for more body comparison. It also tends to bring lighter and smaller clothes but if you're very body conscious, Summer can bring buckets of dis-ease and anxiety with thoughts of feeling more exposed and vulnerable. The idea of going out in shorts and a vest may indeed feel cooler, but also terrifying.
The reality is light-weight, light-coloured, breathable, loose fitting fabric is cooling for the body but so often forgotten. And long coverings for arms and legs will also protect your skin from the sun. Try layering your clothes to help you regulate your temperature more easily but also provide you with a sense of security.
With winter you may notice the familiar 'feeling cold all the time'. But when you're told that feeling cold is because you are not eating enough or a consequence of being underweight or your illness, what does the eating disorder brain do with that information when the weather gets warm and you feel cold less often?
It joins 2 dots together and makes a square. The eating disorder voice says 'you're hot so you've clearly eaten too much'. Or 'you're not cold any more because you've gained weight. It's NOT that giant ball of burning fire in the sky that evaporates all the clouds making you feel like this....it's you'. So up goes the the volume with reasons why you should stop eating.
My truthful reminder here is feeling hot does not mean anything has changed in you or that you need to take action on your thoughts. It's not unusual to transfer any discomfort we feel around our body that we don't know how to manage, into blame and self loathing.
Instead, try to focus on the things that help you feel safe. Increase your self care; consider a cool shower, popping a t shirt in the fridge before you put it on, doing your gentle distractions and don't forget, drinking enough water.
The other challenge that can arise is the effect of warmer temperature on appetite.
Because when we get hot, the body shifts priority to keeping cool over eating. In the short term, over heating is seen as more dangerous than not eating so blood is diverted away from the gut to the skin surface to help us with heat dissipation - we go red and we sweat.
When this happens appetite can fall. And food preferences can sometimes shift even more to snacky foods as they often feel lighter on the gut compared to a bigger meal. You may notice feeling full more quickly too, for the same reason. This can feed the eating disorder as it can make food avoidance feel more justifiable.
Now this came up with a client a few days ago when she asked me 'how do I know which is my ED voice saying don't eat and which is my voice and my body saying I'm not hungry?'
This is such a great question but also one I can't answer for her. Although I did pose the question does it matter what the origin of this message is? Whether your response depends on challenging the ED voice or taking on board your own body's signals, you still need to eat. You still need to nourish your body. It is also likely your type of eating is less enjoyable / more difficult because it's functional eating. And that's OK.
So whether you are on an eating plan or not, stay intentional with your eating. Eat regularly. Contact your support person or team of you're finding this difficult.
And remember, struggling with your body image is not a moral failure, nor mean that you are failing recovery.