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College can be an exciting adventure. This may be the first time you’re living away from home, all while you’re meeting interesting people and discovering many new ideas. If you’re also recovering from an eating disorder, here are some important ways to protect your recovery and deal with potential triggers.
Support – When you’re away from home and into a new routine, you can quickly lose touch and feel isolated from your recovery community. It’s crucial to stay in contact with people in your support network, particularly those who are also recovering and know what you’re going through. There are 12-step meetings by phone and online, and you can arrange Skype video meetings with friends and family, or even for therapy sessions. You may also want to look for 12-step meetings on or near your campus, or start one!
Food choices – Stick with the food plan or way of eating that has been working for you so far in recovery. Commit to eat the food that’s best for you, no matter what your roommates or friends might be having. Try to be a positive example for them, rather than let them have a negative influence on your eating.
Often the college meal plan will be your best solution, so that you have well-rounded meals at regular intervals. It’s usually the most cost-effective choice as well, and will be much healthier than low-cost but low-nutrient food like noodles.
Movement – To stay healthy and avoid some common pitfalls of college life, look for ways to have fun that don’t involve eating or drinking alcohol. Invite your friends to go for a walk or bike ride, play sports, toss a Frisbee, dance or other fun movement activities. Your friends will love you for the positive benefits, such as having more energy and stamina for studying!
Planning – Plan ahead for times or situations when you might be tempted to overeat or restrict your food, such as the pressure of exam time or deadlines, working late at night, or going to parties. Reach out for extra support and tell someone what you’re planning, for example to eat a healthy, moderate meal before the party, and pack a healthy snack to eat while you’re there.
Honesty – Tell on yourself if you notice unhealthy habits creeping in, such as using food as a way to procrastinate when you’re worried about an assignment, or restricting your eating during the week so you can binge drink or overeat on the weekend. No one expects you to be perfect – this is college, after all – but the more attention you put on your recovery, the better equipped you’ll be for academic, social and emotional success at college.