Back-to-School and Eating Disorders

For some individuals, hearing the phrase “back-to-school” generates a sense of excitement — students eagerly enter stores and carefully select new supplies, clothes, and shoes. In addition, the urge to meet new teachers and reconnect with friends increases. 

However, for those individuals who have spent the summer in a treatment facility or are continuing to work through the recovery process from the eating disorder, the thought of returning to school is synonymous to appalling.

by: Alyssa Gutierrez

Common Worries of Those Suffering/Recovering From an Eating Disorder

As the beginning of a new school year approaches, individuals working on recovery from an eating disorder are absorbed by a tremendous amount of fear and distress. Below are a few concerns these individuals have:

  • Shopping for new clothes: 

    • “What size should I buy?” 

    • “Will people notice the change in weight?”

    • “What if people ask me about my weight?”

  • The thought of socializing and reconnecting with peers:

    • “Will they ask where I was all summer?”

    • “Will they see how much I eat? Will they question my food choices?” 

    • “What do I say when they ask where I was?” 

  • Meeting New Teachers:

    • “Do I need to let them know I’m struggling from an eating disorder?”

    • “Will they support me?”

  • Extracurriculars: 

    • “Will I even have enough time? With therapy and other appointments, I don’t think I will…”

  • Sports: 

    • “Is my physical health good? Am I mentally ready?”

    • “What will happen if I need time off?”

    • “Will my treatment team let me?”

  • Dining Hall:

    • “What if I don’t like any of the food?”

    • “Do I make my own lunch?”

    • “How do I make sure I will complete my meals?”

While only a few examples were mentioned, it demonstrates how these students often view school as a stressor. If not monitored, the eating disorder can emerge again due to a rigorous environment which can lead to perfectionism and comparing oneself to another individual. It should be known that school is not only an institution for academics but an institution that involves socializing, participating in sports or clubs, and meals. For those in college, living away from home can provoke individuals to feel vastly stressed as they may have to form a new support system, find new treatment professionals, and learn how to cope in an increased independent setting.


Students, treatment teams, and families are encouraged to discuss the transition back to school — preparation and coping skills are essential to build a smoother transition. 

Tips for Going Back to School: 

  • Think about potential triggers you may have when returning to school and write them down. Discuss the potential triggers with your treatment team and family to form a plan on how to cope with each potential trigger. 

  • Inform the school counselor or nurse about the eating disorder. Having an adult at school know about the eating disorder allow them to offer support and help when you are feeling worried/stressed. 

  • Encourage yourself to build relationships. Remember, recovery REQUIRES people.

  • Create a support system in and outside of school. Who can you talk to when you’re struggling?

  • Write down at least 10 activities that make you happy. Playing with your pets? Drawing? Refer to the list you made when you feel down or distressed. 

  • Consider attending groups outside of school (church group, friends, etc.) 

  • PRACTICE SELF-CARE!! Listen to your favorite songs, try a new face mask, take a bath, etc. 

  • Practice mindfulness — Take some time to appreciate the present. Perhaps noticing the warmth of the sun or the feeling of grass against your skin can help with experiencing the moment rather than worrying about the future.

  • Create a positivity journal. Write down at least three positive things that happened during that day and refer to the journal when the mind seems to only focus on the negative.


Looking for eating disorder treatment programs or services in the New York City area? Learn more about our options at BALANCE eating disorder treatment center here or contact us here.


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This post was written by Alyssa Gutierrez.

Alyssa is the founder of www.feeding-happiness.com, a website that was inspired by her own recovery journey. The website provides inspiration and information on eating disorders. Recognizing the lack of awareness in Spanish-Speaking countries, the entire website is translated into Spanish to provide various communities a valuable resource. BALANCE is excited to have Alyssa join our team as a blogging intern!

Melainie Rogers