Proper nutrition is undeniably one of the most important factors of physical health, but when you’re living with an eating disorder, it is also the most overwhelming factor. Trying to stay healthy sometimes seems like a lost cause altogether, but as someone who has been through recovery and come out on the other side, I’m here to tell you there are tons of other ways to take care of your body while you’re sorting out the nutrition piece with your treatment team. Don’t get me wrong — no matter how hard it is, nutrition is extremely important and should be worked on at all times, but while this piece is lacking, it is important to do all you can to stay as healthy as possible.
Here are four ways to honor and care for your body that do not involve food.
1. Nourish your skin.
Your body’s largest organ, your skin, is undoubtedly affected during your eating disorder. Find a skincare routine that makes you feel good both physically and mentally. Find that face wash that makes you feel cleansed, find that lotion that smells and feels heavenly, and find that face mask that makes you feel like a new person.
2. Give your hair some love.
However you like to maintain your hair — whether that’s short, long or bald — there are always ways to make it look and feel beautiful, even if your eating disorder has affected it. If your hair is dry and brittle, research homemade masques that promote strong, nourished hair. If you wear your hair the same way every day, look on Pinterest for some new styles that are easy to do and make you feel more confident. If you’re feeling adventurous, maybe even dye your hair a fun color or get a new cut. If you don’t have hair, look into ways to maintain your scalp health.
Massages can definitely be scary when you’re uncomfortable with your body, not to mention expensive. If getting one professionally is not an option for whatever reason, invest in a self-massager — you can find them inexpensively at department stores. Alternatively, you can ask a friend or significant other to do it, or do it yourself! Research hand massages, scalp massages, leg massages or find a way to massage an area you hold tension in. Massages stimulate blood flow, which in turn makes you feel more alert and happier.
This can be a tough one if you deal with compulsive exercise or your exercise is restricted, so talk to your treatment team first. Maybe come up with a list of stretches that work for your body and your recovery. Stretching can be anything from standing on your tip-toes and reaching up to the sky in the morning, to doing one or two of your favorite yoga poses, to practicing yoga for 20 minutes. Stretching is a good way to move and learn to honor yourself and your body. It helps to release tension and to recognize all your body does for you. If you can, explore what feels good to you and try to commit to a regular routine of stretching that is appropriate and healthy for you. It’s a simple way to promote your health both physically and mentally!
Make a list of ways you like to care for and honor your body, and on days you are grieving the ways your eating disorder has affected your body, refer to the list and remind yourself that health has many factors. There is always something you can do to help yourself.