Going Back to School in Recovery: How to Be Prepared
Kelly Boaz, CNP
It's that time of year again - maybe you’ve headed back to school already, or maybe it’s coming up soon. (Or maybe you’re like me, and still have the strong desire to buy a new backpack every September, regardless of the fact that it’s been years since you last went to school). If you’re heading back to school this fall, that’s pretty exciting! It can also be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re in recovery from an eating disorder.
Whether you’re heading off to college, or back to elementary/middle/high school, you’ll need to do some preparation in advance. I know - it’s tempting, especially if you’re feeling fairly strong in your recovery to just “wing it”, but that’s rarely a good idea, especially when it comes to eating disorders. By putting in the groundwork, you’re not planning for a relapse, but you’re making sure supports are in place if you need them. Let’s face it - it’s much harder to find a new support system when you’re in the thick of a relapse than it is to go back to an existing one.
Who you need on your support team will vary from person to person. At the very least, you’ll need an MD you trust. You’ll probably also want to have a therapist on hand. If the person who deals with any medications you’re taking is different from your MD and therapist, you’ll need that person, as well. Lastly, you may want to recruit the services of a dietitian or nutritionist to round out your team. You may need more support people, you may need fewer. Either way, find them now, before you need them.
It may also be a good idea to book a session with your therapist within the first few weeks of school. While it’s a busy time, it’s also a stressful time. Having that appointment booked can act as a bit of a safety net for making the transition go a little more smoothly.
Just like you don’t want to leave your support system up to chance, you’ll likely want to have some sort of meal plan to follow for the first few weeks. For students living at home, that may just be a lunch plan, while for college students living away, you’ll probably need a plan for all your meals.
When you’re running late for your 8 am class, it’s easy to leave breakfast off your list of priorities. I like to work out a “best case scenario/worst case scenario” meal plan with my clients. When everything goes according to plan, you sit down with all your meal components and have a leisurely, mindful meal. But, if you don’t even have enough time to brush your teeth, you’ll need a much more on-the-go option. Work with your team to figure out what quick breakfast will still meet your individual needs, so you can get to class fed AND on time.
School can be an unpredictable time, though. If the gang is all going out to that new sushi restaurant for lunch, sticking to your meal plan may not be the best option for you. If it’s safe for you to be a little flexible in your plan, by all means, make the connections! Join the community! Get the sushi!
Going back to school is exciting, but it can also really throw you for a loop. If you find yourself struggling more than you’d anticipated, don’t beat yourself up. It’s normal (if not helpful) to seek the comfort of old patterns when things get chaotic. Know what the warning signs are for you, and reach out as soon as you spot them. Sure, you might be able to get through it on your own, but if you don’t have to do it alone, don’t. You deserve all the support you need to have a safe, happy, healthy school experience.
Kelly Boaz, CNP is a Toronto-based Holistic Nutritionist (CNP), specializing in eating disorder recovery and food freedom. After winning her 17-year battle with anorexia, Kelly Boaz turned her life’s focus to helping others do the same. She is also a writer and speaker (TEDx, TDSB), raising eating disorder awareness, and helping people heal their relationship with food and their bodies. You can find out more about Kelly, or get in touch via her website.