Back to School While Maintaining Eating Disorder Recovery
Returning to school while maintaining recovery from an eating disorder can be both overwhelming and challenging. We, at Toledo Center, are here and ready to help. Our mission is to support and accommodate our clients and families by providing a flexible environment that offers a programming structure dedicated to practicing academics while maintaining recovery.
Returning to School Can Challenge Eating Disorder Recovery
For children and adolescents with an eating disorder, school can be full of potential triggers and challenges. Some of the most common challenges at school for adolescents with an eating disorder include:
- Rigidity/Perfectionism: Studies show that children and adolescents suffering from Eating Disorders often place a great deal of pressure on themselves to excel in academics. This overwhelming challenge can often lead to anxiety, triggering over-controlled Eating Disorder behaviors.
- Body Image Concerns/Comparisons: Often, teens and children feel pressure to look a certain way in order to “fit in” or be accepted by their peers, especially in today’s social media-engrained culture. These pressures can exacerbate body image issues and often lead to a relapse in disordered eating patterns and behaviors.
- Extracurricular Performance: Eating disorders are common among high school athletes, especially for those in an aesthetic or weight-based sports like wrestling or gymnastics. The pressure to perform well, exercise regularly, and an emphasis on body weight/shape can often induce an increase in disordered eating behaviors.
- Unstructured Mealtimes: Often, eating in a public setting can be challenging for those trying to maintain Eating Disorder recovery. It is recommended that clients slowly reintegrate back into eating in a public sector, which may mean working with the school and treatment team to provide additional 1:1 support during mealtimes while in school.
Tips for Going Back to School During Eating Disorder Recovery
If you or a loved one is heading back to school this year during eating disorder recovery, here are five ways to help prevent relapse and keep you on the road to recovery.
Maintain Consistent Contact with your Treatment Team
The first and most important thing you can do to maintain recovery when you go back to school is to maintain consistent contact with your treatment team. As we already mentioned, school can be full of potential triggers and challenges for those with an Eating Disorder; therefore, we recommend preparing for these challenges by setting up consistent virtual or in-person appointments before going back to school and intentionally keeping those appointments throughout the entire school year to help prevent relapse and ultimately, maintain recovery.
Establish a Support System
The second way to safeguard your recovery at school is to establish a support system. One of the best ways to do this is to talk to the school counselor/support staff about your potential challenges (we encourage parents to reach out to school staff for their children). Let them know you are maintaining recovery from an Eating Disorder and discover collaborative ways to keep you on track. You may also consider a specialized Eating Disorder virtual or in-person support group.
Use Self-Soothing Techniques
Talk collaboratively with your treatment team about effective coping mechanisms you can use to effectively cope with stress and challenges associated with maintaining recovery. Positive coping mechanisms including journaling, deep breathing, prayer, meditation, arts and crafts, taking a walk, or reading a book can be helpful to direct your attention away from engaging in Eating Disorder behaviors.
Maintain your Nutrition Plan
If you struggle to eat in public or need supervision to complete meals, consider asking your school nurse or counselor if you can eat in their office. It may also be helpful to have your parent come by during lunchtime to eat meals with you. If you have a trusted friend at school, you may consider asking them to be your accountability partner during school meals. Once again, check-in with your treatment team to establish a nutrition plan and learn skills to help you stay on track with eating at school.
Set Appropriate Limits & Boundaries
Finally, if you or a loved one are going back to school during eating disorder recovery, give yourself permission to take things slowly and say “no” to activities or classes that may jeopardize your recovery. An example of this may mean only taking morning classes and going to intensive outpatient programming during the afternoons or refraining from sports and extra-curricular activities for a short period and then working to ease back into them. Being open and transparent about your needs and struggles can ultimately help you continue to maintain sustainable freedom from Eating Disorders.
Our Academic Approach at Toledo Center
At Toledo Center, we understand the challenging decision to begin the journey of recovery during this time of uncertainty, which is why we are committed to helping our teen clients maintain their academic success while in our care. Our certified teacher works alongside our clients and families by communicating with the school system to establish individualized goals for assignment and coursework completion.
“We are dedicated to helping our clients continue their academic growth while receiving the treatment and care they deserve. For this reason, we are customizing individualized plans that leverage virtual classroom opportunities and devoting time and space for academic needs,” Amos Taylor, CEO.
To learn more about Toledo Center for Eating Disorders or if you or someone you know is suffering from an Eating Disorder, we are here and ready to help. Contact our Admission Team at One Call, Many Solutions at 765-641-0022 or feel free to complete our contact form.