Pregnancy and parenting require a great deal of strength, physically, mentally and emotionally. For women with a history of Eating Disorders, these challenges can be amplified as they watch their bodies change and grow.
Katherine McPhee Foster, runner up on season 5 of American Idol, recently became a new mom to a baby boy. She is one example of a woman who came close to experiencing an Eating Disorder relapse during pregnancy.
Katherine McPhee began her struggle with bulimia when she was in middle school. However, after a treatment program and therapy, she became stable for 4-5 years before her pregnancy.
This is why when Katherine began struggling with her body image during her first trimester, it came as a bit of a shock to her. To cope with these feelings, she decided to seek help from her therapist.
Ilene Fishman, board member of the National Eating Disorders Association in the USA and an Eating Disorders clinician, said that it is completely normal for thoughts of disordered eating to resurface during pregnancy as the body changes and one may feel out of control. For someone who has recovered from a past Eating Disorder, this can be especially scary.
For Katherine, her Eating Disorder stemmed from an unhealthy relationship with herself. Psychotherapy helped her develop a healthier relationship with herself which, in turn, helped her manage her Eating Disorder throughout her pregnancy.
Here are some tips for dealing with disordered eating thoughts during pregnancy:
Seek professional help ASAP. This can be a professional you have had a good experience with in the past or someone entirely new. It is important that you feel you can be completely open and honest with them. If you find they aren’t being sensitive to your concerns, you may want to consider switching providers.
Look at it as an opportunity for growth. We live in a society that constantly challenges us. Moreover, when we age, our bodies naturally change. Overcoming these thoughts of disordered eating that may occur during pregnancy can build resilience.
Remember that there is nothing to be ashamed of when asking for help. It is the best, most courageous thing you can do for yourself and your baby in the long run. Rather than seeing yourself as a failure, look at your challenges as an opportunity for growth that will help you reach your full potential as an individual and a mother.
We have the power to raise the future generation to place their focus on good health rather than weight and physical appearance. Before we can teach our children, we need to be able to embrace these positive attitudes in ourselves.
Does social media promote Eating Disorders? Or can it actually be a useful tool to help in recovery? This is a really important topic especially during the pandemic as people are spending more and more time online and on social media.
Research shows that there is a correlation between time spent on social media and increased risk for Eating Disorders, however there is no direct causation. Social media has its pros and cons in terms of Eating Disorder support, and it is important to be aware and informed of both in order to gain a balanced perspective and make decisions that are best for your own recovery.
On the one hand, social media can serve to promote wellness, health and inspiration for individuals with Eating Disorders who are seeking recovery. On the other hand, it can also lead to an obsession with healthy eating as young women and men post about their “clean”, impractical diets. Social media is also linked to negative body image, as people compare themselves to unrealistic, often photoshopped bodies and feel badly that they can’t live up to an impossible standard.
Those who use social media regularly tend to form strong connections to influencers, even though they really don’t know the individual. These connections are actually stronger than what a person might feel towards models or athletes on TV. Social media makes it seem like you are privy to a person’s personal life which creates a strong bond and connection. So, when an influencer looks fit and toned, it can cause people to focus increasingly on their own appearance and their negative feelings towards it.
With all of the potential negative aspects, it seems easy to suggest taking a break from social media. However, it is important to understand that this can be extremely difficult for some people, especially during a pandemic when social media might be a person’s main source of social interaction.
When used effectively, social media can be a really positive source of support and healing for individuals combatting Eating Disorders. For example, it can be a great way to share resources, messages, and images that are healing or affirming. Many social media apps have begun to adopt a greater emphasis on true health, nutrition and wellness, promoting evidence-based nutrition and health messaging and encouraging positive viewer engagement, which counters some of the misinformation. There has also been a positive shift towards promoting diverse body types, shapes, sizes and colours. Social media groups can provide a social support system for people who may need that connection to others who they feel understands what they are going through.
Here are some tips to make your social media a recovery-based space:
Unfollow accounts that make you feel badly about yourself.
Intentionally search for accounts that promote body positivity and body diversity.
Follow positive social media accounts that spread joy, acceptance, and who choose to lift others.
Take small social media breaks from time to time.
Give non-appearance related compliments. For example, instead of commenting on how good your friend looks in their most recent Instagram photo, comment on how artistic the photo looks.
Remember, it’s YOUR feed. You have the control to cultivate it to make it positive and supportive to your healing journey instead of negative and triggering.
With the increased use of social media during this pandemic, it is crucial to be mindful of whether using it is helpful for you and your mental health. All in all, social media can be a negative influence for those with Eating Disorders, but it is possible to cultivate your feed into a more positive and supportive space for your healing journey.
Do you find social media triggering for your Eating Disorder? How can you curate your own feed to make sure it is a recovery focused space?