Don’t fall into eating disorder/body image panic

Spring is here. Let’s not fall into the eating disorder/body image panic.

While panicking about spring may sound strange to some, people with eating and weight problems know this feeling all too well. There is a tremendous amount of worry, anxiety and shame. The fact that we only have a short time to get in shape before we have to get into a bathing suit concerns us. And we are often filled with shame about the diet we didn’t adhere to, the fitness regimen we couldn’t keep up with, and the fact that we are not a smaller size.


This can lead to anxiety, self-loathing or even depression as we ruminate about what we see as our failures. We should be thinner and more muscular, have no obvious cellulite, and be in a happy, loving relationship. It is easy to think everyone is out having more fun than we are. And this is reinforced by the fact that we see couples out and about, walking on the sidewalk holding hands.


Spring often brings up feelings of inadequacy about who we are and who we think we are supposed to be. We are filled with self-contempt about not being better at controlling our eating. We worry about not having the relationship we want and we tell ourselves we need to find a loving partner before Memorial Day if we don’t want to have a lonely summer. And we look at magazine covers with beautiful people who seem to have it all – and compare ourselves, coming up short.

It is not too late to counteract the negative messages that we may be telling ourselves. For people with eating disorders, one of the best ways to diminish negative thoughts about our body is through movement, especially first thing in the morning. Engaging in exercise is likely to help us be more invested in making wise, healthy food choices.  It also helps increase anti-anxiety and anti-depression endorphins so we can start the day with a positive attitude. With this mindset, we are less likely to obsess on food and body image as the day progresses.


Here are a few tips to counteract the panic:


  • Remember that the increased daylight in springtime makes it easier to exercise outdoors safely.
  • Be courageous enough to find a form of movement you enjoy
  • Try out a sport or activity you’ve never done before like tennis, golf, water aerobics or canoeing
  • Make plans to do things outdoors you enjoy
  • Find comfortable, attractive clothing and don’t worry about the size—clothing sizes are constantly changing anyway


Spring and summer offer us opportunities to rejuvenate ourselves, have fun, and renew our commitment to self care. As the popular saying by Liam Linisong goes, “A year from now, what will you wish you had done?” Whatever that is, make sure you are enjoying it now.


Joanne Gerr MSW, CSW, has a local office of NY-NJ Eating Disorder Therapy at 324 Raritan Ave., Suite 111, Highland Park. For more information, visit