How Summer Can Affect People With Eating Disorders

When you live with an eating disorder, there are a lot of things that can affect it. For example my eating disorder rules are often impacted by things like my location, what time it is, who I am with, what is going on for the rest of that day, and, as I have learnt very recently, what season it is.

I have always known that things like the season can affect my eating disorder, but never have I realised this more than this summer, especially the past few weeks of June. If you do not live in England you may not be aware of what has been going on, so to clue you in, you should know that for the majority of June, England has been doing its very best impersonation of a Sauna. IT WAS 34 DEGREES.
For those of you who are used to living in hot countries this may not sound particularly hot, but for people who have always lived in England, 34 degrees feels like you are wearing three hundred woollen jumpers and have been thrust into a furnace with a hot potato shoved down your trousers, a feeling that is not helped by our inability to go for more than 24 hours without a good cup of hot tea (seriously we can’t do it. This isn’t a joke. Tea withdrawal disease is a very serious problem in the UK and 90% of hospital admissions are poor folk who cannot find their favourite teapot).

Now when the weather is hot, people like to take off their clothes or at least wear as few clothes as possible. Gone are the winter coats and snow boots and out come the shorts and crop tops, items that I find rather terrifying due to my eating disorder and body confidence issues. Throughout the year I live in large baggy jumpers so as to cover my body up and out of sight, so that people cannot see all of the disgustingness I see when I look in the mirror, which is a slightly problematic practice when the weather is hot. In summer when you have an eating disorder or body dysmorphic issues, you basically have two choices, stick to your normal wardrobe and roast to death or wear sensible clothes that allow a little bit of breeze here and there but that simultaneously leave you incredibly uncomfortable/stuck in the high street rigid with anxiety because you are wearing a pair of shorts.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I also find summer and warm weather extremely triggering to my eating disorder because I am so used to being cold and being cold is a symptom of being “unwell”. Indeed being cold is a feeling so synonymous and such a documented symptom for people with eating disorders that thermometers were shoved in our ears multiple times a day in hospital to see if we were at risk of hypothermia (an unpleasant experience though I suppose better than that of having a thermometer shoved anywhere else…).
Every time I say or am told by someone that I feel cold, doctors will say things like “it is because you are underweight” or “it is because you don’t eat enough”, so when I am not cold, I panic.
Due to the association with being cold to not eating enough, if I feel warm or heaven forfend “hot” at any time, my head will immediately convince me that it is because I must have accidentally eaten ten buckets of lard and have gained one thousand kilograms. If I feel warm, my eating disorder states that I also must be fat.
It is completely nonsensical but I cannot help it. As much as I try to apply logic to the situation, my brain will always convince me that being warm has absolutely nothing to do with the giant ball of fire burning in the sky (aka the sun…calm down this is not the apocalypse), and has everything to do with what I have eaten and how much I weigh. For me then, eating becomes a lot harder in the summer time because it is easier for my eating disorder to convince me that I don’t really need the food seeing as I am already abundantly covered in enough flesh to keep me toasty warm.

Another problem I have faced this year more than ever, is that of the longer daylight hours we have in summer. I know a lot of people find that sunlight is beneficial to their mood and can actually help them with mental health problems like depression, but for me it is the opposite. I hate sunshine (which is why I live in the UK).
In the sunshine everything feels too bright, too loud, too intense, and I feel calmer in the quiet winter months when people are tucked up inside rather than running around out doors with no clothes on.
I have also always struggled to eat when the sun is up, a problem that has somehow got worse this year. You see, I am currently sectioned under a CTO, a part of the mental health act that means I am allowed to live at home as long as I adhere to certain conditions like staying above a certain weight and going to appointments. I want to say that my main motivation to eat is to be healthy but as true as that is, I am ashamed to say that if I am completely honest, the main push that gets me eating is the fear of going back into hospital and having to eat more food and gain more weight. In the day time however, that fear is not as strong. When the sun is up my brain thinks “hey it is fine, you will stay above your CTO weight, if you don’t need to eat now, you can do it later”.
When the sun is down, there is no later though, and I realise that if I want to maintain my weight and with it my freedom, I am going to need to get some munchies out. The problem is that I know my weight will be acceptable as long as I eat and does not depend on when that eating happens, so naturally as with most things you fear/dread in life, I avoid it as long as possible.
In the winter, this was not such a problem because it was dark by 4pm, but in the summer with all this daylight savings malarky, it isn’t dark until around 10pm and as the months have gone on I have found my eating getting later and later in the day until the point I am at as I write this, a point where I am basically carrying out a year long, eating disorder motivated version of Ramadan. This would make sense if I was a particularly devout follower of the Muslim faith, but my adherence to such rules is not driven by a special spiritual meaning or importance, it is is because I have an eating disorder in my ear who is a total idiot.

In summer as well as taking their clothes off, people tend to change their way of life in the sense of what food they eat and the roast dinners and steamed syrup puddings of the winter time are replaced by cold salads and ice cream.
Again however, this is another seasonal transition that my eating disorder leaves me struggling with, because I eat exactly the same foods in the exact same proportions every day and one of these foods is porridge, aka that boiling hot bowl of oats that most people don’t whip a pan out for until there is a significant chill in the air.
When it is 34 degrees outside, nobody in their right mind would start getting oats out of the cupboard to perform their daily Goldilocks’ impression, but I am not in my right mind, so that is exactly what I do (the slight difference in my impersonation being that I am a brunette version of Goldilocks…Oh yeah and I don’t break into people’s houses to get my oats, especially if those people are bears).

In June then, during the hottest week England has seen in my lifetime, I was stuck in the predicament of being boiling hot and thus convinced that I didn’t need to eat because I was clearly obese. Then by 10pm when the CTO fear would hit me, I would force myself to eat despite being so warm, only I would trigger myself even more and make it even harder by making the food I was consuming a steaming bowl of porridge.
“Eat cold porridge” I hear you cry, “try overnight oats which is the exact same thing but you don’t cook it”, yet even that couldn’t solve my problem as OCD has rules about how porridge is prepared and naturally has me convinced that unless my porridge has been cooked for exactly 4 minutes and 40 seconds with stirring at the appropriate intervals, I will kill everyone on the planet. What logic!

As you can see then, summer/the season and weather in general is one of the many things that people may not think about affecting people with an eating disorder, another thing that complicates the simplified idea that people with eating disorders “just don’t eat”.
They are complex creatures, mysterious as the dark side of the moon (10 points to anyone who got that reference), and the control they hold over a person’s life creates anxieties and difficulties most people might not think about. I am of course happy for everyone out there who loves summer and if you are one of those people living in England, I really hope you are having a lovely time in the June sunshine and are feeling as sunny as…well…the sun…
In the meantime I guess I will just have to suck it up and count down until the winter months when jumpers, porridge and 24 hour darkness are socially acceptable again. My God I am a jolly soul!

Take care everyone x

SummerBear

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14 thoughts on “How Summer Can Affect People With Eating Disorders

  1. Just curious, does your treatment team ever have you challenge your OCD rituals or ED rules, or is that something you’ll maybe tackle down the road and right now you’re just focusing on getting through each day the best that you can?

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    • They do try with my ED things but tbh it hasn’t been going very well lately…I have been trying to move my ED timings back for weeks and I am still stuck…However this week I have kept my timings diary very accurately so that I can speak to my psychologist in my session tomorrow and we can make new action plans! In terms of OCD I think people are just waiting until I can get help from that service I was assessed by in October last year…Still on the list! Ah well, all in good time! xxx

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      • Whoa, October was 9 months ago. They haven’t taken action yet? Shame on them. Glad you’re keeping track of timings and are going to talk about it tomorrow! Just be honest about your struggles ’cause what else can you do, ya know?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. For some reason i managed to post this on fb without my usual supportive love comment.. so here it is. I HEAR YOU AND I LOVE YOU. I hope your team are doing something to help the day/night issue, but as to porridge, it’s a delightful footstuff. You can eat hot curry in hot india, you can eat hot porridge in hot England-a. Frustrating maybe, and maybe one day you will have more of a choice, but for now don’t blame the oats! love you xxxxx

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    • Aww you are cute! Thank you for this, you always know when I am likely to be reading too much into things and worrying! Am currently working on the daylight issue with STEPS and though it didn’t go to plan this week I kept my diary every day as told so we can discuss it tomorrow and make new action plans! Hoorah! Now I am off to go and eat some oats because I am basically Goldilocks and I will eat ALL the oats no matter what the weather is doing! Love you xxxxxxx

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  3. BTW, I hate summer. I refuse to wear shorts or sleeveless tops. I can’t find a bathing suit that fits me and that I’m also willing to be seen in so I could get some relief in my apartment complex’s pool. I just can’t do it. I’m mortified. I don’t want to be seen. Also I run hot even in winter, so you can imagine that summer is just extra bad for me. (Funny you mentioned that you associate the “feeling warm to fat” feeling, because while that is certainly NOT true, esp. in your case, I have this issue too!) Last summer I was INTOLERANT to heat. You know what it actually was for me?? Meds, for the most part. Meds can make you feel overheated more easily or sweat more. But also… just realize… it’s effing HOT out! And I don’t know if you get humidity there, but that makes it all even worse. “Heat index.” Ew, it’s totally gross.

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    • IT MAKES ME SO FREAKING HAPPY TO HAVE A FRIEND WHO ACTUALLY UNDERSTANDS AND RELATES TO MY HATRED OF SUMMER. Nobody else gets it! They are all too excited by sunshine and I just want it to go away! We should move into a dark cave and banish the bastard from our lives for good! x

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      • Well, I hate winter too though. Sorry! The total lack of sunlight does get to me. When it’s dark by 4:30, I feel like death. Also I HATE snow. It wasn’t this bad when I live in California. I live right by a time zone so we get darkness early. it’s dark by 4pm there in the dead of winter? No… I couldn’t deal with that. Then you add in SNOW… dear lord I hate snow so much. Give me thunderstorms and rain and I’m fine. I love a nice autumn and the pretty leaves and cooling temps. Spring with the flowers. Do not give me heat, humidity, and fucking cicada bugs with their incessant Midwest buzzing! OMG do you have those there? I really need to get out of this area and back to the west coast where those fuckers don’t buzz for 2-3 months straight…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thunderstorms and rain are my favourite! I hate snow too but we never get it over here so that is very lucky! And no we don’t have the buzzing insects either…The only Cicada I have ever seen was in a video game

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  4. This is very true! Summer can be very hard for me, especially because of my body issues. And the “being warm equals fat” feeling? God… 100% relatable! But I do love summer. I mean winter is my favourite season but I love the summer vibes 🙂
    I hope you can have a wonderful summer despite your mental issues. ^_^
    Kisses from Portugal ❤
    P.S: I'm sorry but I just couldn't stop laughing when you said that you were burning with 34 degrees. Where I live it's exactly 42 degrees at moment I'm writing this. I want to move to England!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my goodness how on earth are you coping with that heat? That is insane! If I ever come to Portugal you will have to tell me when it is winter because I am not dealing with that madness! Hope you are having a lovely summer my dear, let the sunshine make you smile and don’t forget the sun cream! Kisses from England xx

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