We all go through life changes -- big and small; good and bad. Major transitions like starting a new job, going away to college, or getting married can trigger stress. Even welcome changes can leave the best of us feeling burned out when we don't have the coping skills we need to manage this stress.
For those of us prone to disordered eating habits, unchecked stress generated by life transitions can manifest as behaviors like binge eating, skipping meals, over-exercising, or emotional eating. Studies dating back as early as 1998 have demonstrated a strong link between stress, coping skills, and disordered eating.
So, how do you manage the stress associated with life transitions, without turning back to behaviors that no longer serve you? One approach lies in the EDIT™ (Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapy) method. Here's how the EDIT™ method can provide you with the support you need to navigate food and stress during major life transitions.
What Makes Life Transitions So Stressful?
Change is part of the circle of life. We all experience life transitions, yet it can often seem like everyone around us is handling it better than we are. It's true that some of us handle change better than others, but it's not necessarily because we're born that way. Instead, it has to do with the systems of support surrounding us.
Our support systems play an essential role in helping us navigate stressful life transitions. For individuals prone to disordered eating habits, these support systems are especially important because they protect us from worsening or relapsing.
New research is starting to confirm what many eating disorder practitioners already know about disordered eating and stress. A small 2012 study (n:27) in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that life transitions are associated with a greater risk of eating disorders when they are followed by a lack of necessary support.
Some of the most common transitions associated with eating disorders in this study included:
● School/job changes
A strong support system can serve as a protective factor against disordered eating. Your "support system" includes external resources (such as helpers and loved ones) as well as internal resources (like coping skills).
By strengthening both your internal and external systems of support, you can improve your ability to cope with stressful life transitions -- and minimize the impact of food and disordered eating on your life during these hectic times.
Strengthening Your Support System with the EDIT ™ Method
If you have a history of disordered eating and are currently experiencing (or anticipating) a major change, it's worth ramping up your support system in preparation. Sometimes, strengthening your support system means calling on existing resources like family, friends, and hobbies. Other times, it might mean calling in professional reinforcements.
An EDIT™-certified recovery coach is one type of helping professional who can be a valuable member of your support system during a major life transition. Together, you'll use the principles of EDIT to develop inner resources (and connect with your external supports) to help you navigate food and stress in this period of change.
The EDIT™ method is built on five core tenets. Here's how we might apply each of them if you choose to work with me or another EDIT™-certified recovery coach during a major life transition:
1. Love Yourself
Self-love in eating disorder recovery begins with radical acceptance of yourself and your body. An EDIT™-certified recovery coach can help you cultivate a healthier self-image by addressing negative self-talk, increasing body-positive influences in your life, and more.
For more tips on self-love in ED recovery, see: 10 Steps to Positive Body Image (NEDA)
2. Be True to Yourself
In eating disorder recovery, being true to yourself means honoring your hunger. The EDIT™
method teaches you to do this through the ten principles of intuitive eating.
Eating intuitively means eating when you are hungry, but also enjoying your life to the fullest by eating at restaurants, buying your own groceries, and participating in social events involving food. An EDIT™-certified recovery coach can help you prepare for these activities, or even provide real-time coaching to help you manage anxiety in the moment.
For more information on intuitive eating, see: 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating (The Original Intuitive Eating Pros)
3. Express Yourself
For a full, lifelong recovery, it's essential to develop an identity outside of your eating disorder. An EDIT™-certified recovery coach can help you get to know yourself, your strengths, and your core beliefs better with techniques like journaling, mindfulness, and self-reflective worksheets.
As you get to know yourself better, you may begin to look more closely at your external support system. Do the people you surround yourself with support the values and identity you are trying to create?
For more tips on self-expression and identity in ED recovery, see: 3 Tips for Finding Identity Outside of an Eating Disorder (Jennifer Rollins, LCSW)
4. Give Into Yourself
Self-care is not self-indulgent. In fact, in periods of intense stress, self-care is essential. Your EDIT™-certified recovery coach can help you discover types of self-care you love, including social activities with family and friends, as well as hobbies you can enjoy on your own… ones that don't involve changing your body shape (not going to the gym).
For more ideas of self-care practices you can incorporate into your life, see: The Big List of Self-Care Activities(The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Workbook)
5. Believe In Yourself
Believing in yourself means trusting that you now have the supports in place to help you get through this period of stress, without turning to disordered eating habits. Working with an EDIT ™-certified recovery coach, you'll identify ways to spot and prevent relapse if the stress becomes overwhelming again (or if another life transition occurs in the future).
For more tips on preventing relapse, see: Relapse Prevention Plan (Mirror, Mirror)
Chances are, you already have the internal and external resources you need to navigate food and stress during major life transitions. If you're having trouble accessing them, an EDIT™-certified recovery coach can help.
If you need an extra push or a helping hand as you navigate food and stress during a major life transition, reach out to me at email@example.com. My custom coaching packages include Zoom sessions, individualized retreats, text/email coaching, meal and shopping support, and more to help you truly strengthen your system of support.