Starting the School Year in Recovery
We are saying goodbye to Summer Break and venturing into a new school year. This change can bring challenges and new anxiety for anyone struggling with an eating disorder. The change can also be difficult for those newly in recovery.
One of the things I do in sessions with school-aged clients is help set them up for success during the upcoming year.
Some important things to consider when you are preparing for the school year include:
· What time will you be getting up?
· What time will you eat breakfast?
· What time will you eat lunch?
· Does your school allow you to eat during class?
· Are you allowed to carry around a drink (water bottle or supplement)?
· Will you be participating in a gym class?
· Does your class schedule require more walking than you have been accustomed to?
· What time will you get home?
· What time is dinner?
· What time do you go to bed?
What does all this mean?
I will use my children for an example. They have to be at school by 7:30 a.m. This means that we are up, getting ready for school, and having breakfast before 7:00 a.m.
Now, my son eats lunch around 10:30 while my daughter eats lunch at 12:45. When we look at this scenario, my daughter would definitely need a morning snack and my son would need an afternoon snack. Yes, some schools provide a snack; however, it may be something as simple as a packet of crackers.
Can the schedule affect recovery?
When you have been on a structured meal plan, you will likely need to adjust to your new schedule. I always advice parents to practice the new schedule a few days prior to school starting.
If you have been eating intuitively, this can be challenging because you are now on a schedule- and there is nothing we can do about this!
We do not want you to go several hours without eating, so it is important to talk to your dietitian about how your meal plan can accommodate your schedule. Be honest about the amount of walking you may be doing to get to your classes. Your dietitian can adjust your plan to account for your new schedule.
If you do go long periods without staying on your plan, this can set you up to enter the restriction/binge cycle without you even realizing it.
What else can I do?
I like to contact the schools to learn more about the schedules, rules, and other things that may impact my client’s recovery. I have found that some schools let students eat in class, while others have more strict rules. Find out if your school will allow you to eat a snack in between class or during class.
Think about the example I described above. If you have breakfast at 7:00 a.m. and do not eat lunch until 12:45, you will need a snack.
If your school has rules against this, your dietitian, therapist, or physician can help you by establishing a 504c plan.
Many people think that the 504c plan is only for children with disabilities like an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
The 504c plan can provide accommodations, such as allowing food during class, a pass to talk to the counselor when needed, an excuse to sit out of physical education, allow for absences for medical appointments, among others.
While this might not be necessary depending on the school you attend, it may be necessary if your school has rules that prevent you from following your plan for recovery. After all, we want to set you up for success throughout the school year. Discuss this with your treatment team.
They can help determine what is best for you and your recovery. You can contact me at the information below for additional information as well.
About the Author: Amy Helms
Amy Helms, LMSW, MS, RD, LD is a licensed therapist and licensed dietitian in Columbia, SC. She is the founder of New Hope Counseling and Wellness Center, LLC. She works with both pediatric and adult patients with eating disorders, trauma, and other mental health conditions. She has given several presentations about eating disorders, both at the state and national level. She is a member of Project Heal HEALers Circle, Leader of the Project Heal- Midlands of South Carolina Chapter, and frequently speaks at NEDA walks. You can find more information about her at www.nutritionandtherapy.com and https://www.facebook.com/nutritionandtherapy/