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Coping with an Eating Disorder During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Eating disorders build themselves on perceived feelings of control. Yet, as we find ourselves in the midst of unprecedented and uncertain times, with the coronavirus pandemic, how do those with eating disorders manage?

As an individual with an eating disorder, I struggle with the Christmas season, mostly as my ‘safe’ foods are suddenly superseded with aisles of turkeys and potatoes and normal life grinds to a halt for a day as shops close and families and friends gather at home. Coronavirus feels like this, but every single day and on a much bigger scale. 

Food aisles are being stripped bare by panic buyers and some of my staple familiar foods are absent from the shelves, sending me into terror. Not only this, but the normal rhythms have life have paused, so everything that acts as a protective factor against the eating disorder, such as going for coffee, going on holiday or simply going to work has been cut off. Not only this, but eating disorders also gain strength in isolation, yet we’re being told to actively self-isolate, so once again, the thoughts intensify as I spend hours on my own. 

Many on social media are offering advice on “how to keep busy and occupied” during this time which can add to feelings of guilt when I do not feel as productive as I should be when all I can muster up is surviving each day. 

In light of all of this, I have been considering how those with eating disorders can stay well:

  • Use mantras. The eating disorder voice has a tendency to internally whisper negativity and fear, but use the opportunity of being at home to loudly and repetitively speak life and encouragement over yourself and your circumstances. I have found daily mantras or prayers have built my confidence and changed my perspective.
  • Easier said than done but limit your news intake. Consider those who lived through World War 2, and imagine social media existed and they faced a constant stream of daily updates. People would not have coped with the bombardment of information. It is important to stay informed but staying glued to our phones or TVs can have a detrimental affect making us feel even less in control of our lives. 
  • Continue to make small choices every day. I have found exerting some control and decisions within my own little world albeit minute such as opening the window, or making a coffee in the Nespresso machine, helps me to stay grounded and a little more powerful.  
  • Meal plan. This is a difficult one but take the time to not wait until the shelves are bare of your essential items and then react, but proactively plan some meals you feel you will be able to manage. Doing this with people you trust and feel comfortable with also helps. Planning in advance and writing things down can allay feeling of anxiety as well as increasing stickability to a plan. 
  • Reach out daily. I normally roll my eyes at my husband when he scrolls through his phone after dinner, but now, we’re both texting our friends and family, phoning and Skyping to feel more socially connected. This can also be a great way to think of others and send words of kindness. Thank goodness for technology. 
  • Keep some routine. Try to keep some structure in your day if possible, especially around periods where you may feel triggered such as mealtimes. For me, getting up at my usual time and dressing as if I am going for work helps me work productively whilst at home and remain positive. 
  • Don’t feel guilty. Those with eating disorders are not the best at pausing but use this time to give yourself permission to rest and just be. Furthermore, walking in green spaces is still considered to be a safe activity. 
  • Adapt your routines for home. I have practiced yoga for some years, and I adore my yoga school — it is a place of safety and a place where I can lose myself. But like many other businesses, it has closed its doors for the safety of others; as such, I have adapted to this and started practicing at home using YouTube videos. 

Finally, keep things in perspective, practice gratitude and remember this will pass.

Coping with an Eating Disorder During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Esther Dark

Esther Dark is an Occupational Therapist working in mental health, and is passionate about supporting those find hope and recovery from mental health illness.


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APA Reference
Dark, E. (2020). Coping with an Eating Disorder During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 28, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/coping-with-an-eating-disorder-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 Mar 2020 (Originally: 20 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 19 Mar 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.