People recovering from anorexia tend to disregard one thing: the deep, painful longing for the “perfect” body they once had. It’s called anorexia nostalgia. You miss that phase in your life when you felt in control. You probably even want to relive it so that you can experience some relief from the struggle of recovery. Most people don’t expect to have anorexia nostalgia. As a result, relapse becomes likely. But remember that it’s possible to overcome or prevent it
Know the triggers.
Anorexia nostalgia can happen in the most random situations. But if you look at them closely, they have one thing in common: a trigger. You probably felt the longing when Facebook brought up photo memories in your profile or when you saw old buddies whom you hung out with before getting treated.
It’s easier to anticipate nostalgia when you recognize the triggers. You can better prepare for them. You can adjust your way of thinking even before they strike. Think of all those times when you felt nostalgic about your eating disorder. Write them in your journal. Now, when those situations crop up, that’s your cue to be very conscious of your thoughts and actions. If possible, remove yourself from such scenarios. That might mean ignoring old social media pictures.
Exercise healthy thinking patterns.
When you let feelings rule over your decisions, they will lead you to a downward spiral of self-pity and frustration. Instead of fixating on the nostalgia, let your mind take over the reins. Remember all the thinking exercises you did in psychotherapy. When you encounter your 13-year-old, stick-thin self on Facebook and consider it beautiful, challenge that perception. When you feel like going back to that pattern of restrictive eating and overexercising to achieve a sense of control, take a step back and ask if that’s a healthy way of thinking.
If you’re still on an eating disorder treatment plan, Westport psychologists can help you learn as much as you can during the psychotherapy sessions. These consultations will enable you to battle negative thoughts later on.
Solidify your support system.
Usually, anorexia nostalgia happens months or years since the first medical intervention. This is the period when social support has faltered. That’s why anorexia nostalgia becomes stronger. It’s essential to keep your support system solid. Surround yourself with people who want you to recover from this disorder. Find a mentor who you can be accountable with. If you can join support groups, do it. Maintain regular communication with a therapist or a dietician as well.
On the other hand, if you’re a loved one of an anorexic, you should commit to helping them every day. They might have made so much progress, but that doesn’t make them immune to anorexia nostalgia. Check on them now and then.
In the end, it’s easy to recall the time when you were stick-thin and “in control.” If your eating disorder portrays idealizes that phase in your life, remember the truth of the illness: It’s never healthy for you.