How to cope with an eating disorder during lockdown

Illustration shows a young person sitting in a tree made of forks, with both food and leaves growing from it

Hey! I’m Molly, Fundraising Officer at The Mix and a volunteer at First Steps, an eating disorder charity based in Derbyshire. I always aim to empower and inspire young people to be the best that they can be. My interests include promoting positive wellbeing, travelling, being outside, listening to music and being with friends. 

The spread of the coronavirus has ultimately created a powerful sense of anxiety, uncertainty, fear and has taken away our simple pleasures, the things we most often take for granted. Spending time with friends, going out whenever we want and to wherever we want. We don’t normally give much thought to flying across the world for a two-week holiday, going into school or university every day and the presence of loo roll on the supermarkets’ shelves.

Routine, going to school or university, getting outside, socialising and going to work, are all part of the things we do on a day-to-day basis, which improve and benefit our mental health. Now these have been taken away from us – how do we cope?

Lockdown can be tough if you’re living with an eating disorder

For those who suffer with eating disorders, being in quarantine or lockdown, can be an overwhelming and distressing. For example, the prospect of hoarding food can be exceptionally triggering for those who binge, and sheer boredom can provoke or amplify constant thoughts about eating, which could lead to a relapse. And it’s almost inescapable – social media has been flooded with fitness influencers doing home-workouts, which may create expectations of how we should be living during this time.

For anyone struggling who reading this – you are not alone. You can get through this. You WILL get through this. For anyone who is trying to support someone with an eating disorder during this time – thank you. Be sensitive, be compassionate and take care of yourself too.

Here are my tips on how to cope with an eating disorder during lockdown:

Remove all feelings of guilt

From everything. Just because you might not be able to move around as much or be on your feet all day, you need to eat. You deserve to eat because you deserve to live a wonderful life full of energy and happiness. You do not need to make up for the snacks or meals you eat with exercise.

Do not compare yourself to others

This should just be a general mantra that applies to you throughout life – take care of yourself and put yourself first. Social media is not always a true representation of real life and does not provide a true insight to how people are really coping during this time. Everyone is different!

It’s ok if your body changes

Your body might change during this period and that is okay – you are beautiful in whatever shape or form. This is a time especially for gratitude – if you and your family are safe and well and healthy in this time where so many people are risking their lives – we have to be thankful for our precious bodies.

Find a routine that works for you

Most of us who are susceptible to eating disorders rely on routines to keep us stable. If it puts you at ease – plan out your days and create a meal plan for yourself. Establish your safe foods and ensure that they are included in your meal plan. This is important to ensure that you don’t put any more pressure on yourself during this stressful period.

Make time to relax

Make sure you include relaxation time in your day plans too – self-care is vital.

FRESH AIR. FRESH AIR. FRESH AIR.

You can still go outside! Make the most of that one chance per day to get out of the house, whether it be a walk, a jog or just sitting on a park bench – being active is incredibly beneficial to our mental health.

You don’t need to be productive all the time

Don’t feel like you always have to be productive. You don’t have to do a home work-out, you don’t have to learn a new skill, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You have to do what makes you feel good!

Put your phone away

I really enjoy switching my phone off at night (or airplane mode if I want to listen to music) and instead I read fiction and get lost in whatever world that author has created for me. Coronavirus has dominated every news story, every social channel and as helpful it is to be aware of recent updates, limit your time reading the news so you don’t get too overwhelmed.

Do something calming

For myself personally, yoga and meditation really helps me to get to sleep at night, especially in a dark room. It can be a perfect distraction from ED thoughts and allows you to focus on mindfulness and calming yourself down.

Write things down

Writing your thoughts down on paper can actually help you process them better and allow you to identify your feelings, emotions and the best distractions for you.

Whatever you’re feeling is ok

And lastly, please feel however you want to feel during this time. There is no right or wrong way to handle these circumstances. Take it all day by day. And yeah, it might be tumultuous, and one day you might feel amazing and the next you might feel really fed up. Be patient with yourself and most importantly: be OPEN. Talk. Communicate. Don’t suffer in silence. There are so many people out there to support you, including so many wonderful charities who have published advice online, and operate digital services with online webchats and helplines.

Positive social media accounts to follow

There are also certain accounts on social media that are shedding light and positivity on this difficult period. A few of the Instagram I follow which make me feel good or reassured include:

@the_happy_broadcast

@goodgoodgoodco

@bodyposipanda

@MalinAndersson

@antidietriotclub

@i_weigh

@TheMixUK

@beatedsupport

You are strong enough to get through this.

How to find support for eating disorders

Coping with an eating disorder can be really difficult, but you’re not alone and there are plenty of organisations you can turn to for help. If you want to speak to someone, The Mix’s support services are completely free and confidential. Reach out to their team of experts and trained volunteers, who are there to help with anything that’s on your mind.

Read this expert chat with eating disorder charity, Beat.

You can also read The Mix’s article on how to beat an eating disorder relapse.

Head to The Mix’s community boards to read our expert chat for Eating Disorder Awareness Week, featuring myself and Hope Virgo.

Next Steps

  • Beat help people overcome eating disorders through helplines, online support and self-help groups. Call 0808 801 0677 or, if you're under 18, call their Youthline on 0808 801 0711.
  • Eating Disorders Support has a telephone helpline with 24/7 answer message service and email support for people with eating disorders and anyone concerned about them. Call on 01494 793223.
  • The Self-Esteem Team (SET) run workshops in schools across the UK to help tackle young people's issues with body image, self-worth and mental health.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 06-May-2020