When I was in sixth grade, I won a New York Times essay content. The prompt was to choose one person from a list of six and write about why, one day, you would want their profession. There were some incredible options: an executive from Nickeloden, restaurateur B. Smith… I opted for Lee Goldberg, WABC-TV’s meteorologist and anchor of Eyewitness News Accu-Weather.
I’m not telling you this for bragging rights—let me tell you how cool winning a contest that allows you do to the weather report on Channel 7 makes you as a pre-pubescent girl. I’m telling you this so you understand my thought process:
Weather, I believed, can determine the success of your entire day. It informs how you dress, how you feel, how you face the world. At least, for me. As a child, this mostly meant agreeing or disagreeing with how thick my jacket needed to be. As a teenager, this took on even more meaning as my relationship with my body got more complicated.
Winter, which once elicited feelings of coziness, suddenly became equated with being able to hide my body. Spring was a time to restart whatever diet I was trying. Summer, well, you can only imagine what that did to an eating disorder–muddled developing brain. Fall signaled the beginning of a new school year and a new opportunity to look totally different.
Truthfully, these strong feelings toward the weather and my body have only gotten more significant as I got older. Regrettably, my version of the “winter blues” did not get better with phototherapy.
For me, winter can be the most dangerous time of year for my eating disorder. There’s so much talk about food: Holiday parties at work and with friends constantly revolve around food—often with an undertone of overeating. Everyone is preparing for New Year’s Resolutions, which always include weight loss, and then there’s this fact:
“One of the biggest pitfalls in an eating disorder is a person’s struggle to accurately predict and respond to their bodies intake needs,” says Tabitha Limotte, LMFT, CEDS. “At the heart of both binging and restricting is the idea that whatever a person is eating should be less than what it is.”
Chunky knits allow you to “hide” your body, which in my sickness meant either I could hide how thin I was getting, or, more often, force myself to feel totally disconnected from my body. If I can’t see it, it’s not there.
“Our bodies are evolving, ever-changing, organisms,” Cassandra Lenza, therapist and eating disorder specialist at Healing on Hudson, says. “We cannot expect to remain the same, and factors such as weather, lifestyle, stress, and nutrition all play a role in how our bodies fluctuate and adjust to change. As seasons change, it is perfectly normal to gain or lose a few pounds. It is normal to seek more warming or comforting food and become more sedentary as the fall and winter months approach us,” Lena explains. “In treatment, we expect our weight to shift and fluctuate 5, 10, sometimes even 15 pounds depending on the time of the month, lifestyle, and one’s individual bodily systems. Bodies change!”
Of course, this all makes sense, logically speaking. But eating disorders are far from logical.
Here, we’ve collected some tips for how to handle your fluctuating relationship with your body as the seasons change, straight from the experts.
Tip 1: Check Your Hunger and Fullness Cues
“Be insightful and intentional about your choices,” Lenza says. “Check in with hunger/fullness cues and focus on adding nourishing foods like fruits and vegetables rather than taking away comforting foods that you may enjoy during the colder months.”
Tip 2: Separate Meals
”Focus on taking each holiday meal as a separate entity,” Tabitha Limotte, LMFT, CEDS says. “Each offers an opportunity to stay present and make choices about food.”
Tip 3: Be Nice to Yourself
“Showing yourself compassion and not partaking in any quick fixes for weight gain is also vital,” Lenza says.
And Limotte reiterates: “Talk of family events and food can bring on the anticipation and fear of overeating in individuals with eating difficulties. This fear can lead some to double-down on their effort to restrain eating—what I call over-correction. Over-correction is dangerous because it can exacerbate the whole range of eating disorder pathology.”
Tip 4: Reach Out
“If you feel things are getting to be unmanageable or your body image has taken a hit, seeking a professional opinion who specializes in EDs is the next step,” Lenza says.
About The Chain
The Chain is a New York–based nonprofit that provides peer support for women working in the fashion and entertainment industries who are struggling with or recovering from an eating disorder.
The Chain was founded in December 2017 by Christina Grasso and Ruthie Friedlander, both in recovery from anorexia, after they encountered a need for a support network that addresses the challenges in eating disorder recovery unique to the fashion and entertainment industries.
The Chain aims to create a safe place for this population to share their experiences and gain insight through conversation, support, and community building. The Chain is peer-led and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Learn more about The Chain here.