Who likes being sick? Probably no one. It’s not the most fun way to spend a perfectly good day or three and it can feel so overwhelming. Though I’ve never been one to get sick that often, when I do, it reminds me not to take my good health for granted.
But there’s a darker side to getting sick that can manifest in someone who’s struggling or has struggled with an eating disorder or disordered eating. Being sick can act as a trigger, restarting disordered habits even if they’ve been absent for awhile.
What do I mean by this? Let’s look at a recent personal example. My sister was sick with a sore throat and other respiratory issues a week or so ago, and she ended up passing it onto me. The day I started feeling a little sick, I felt pretty wiped by the evening. I ended up skipping dinner and my nighttime snack in favor of plenty of water and some cold medicine. The problem with this? Later on that night, I was obviously starving–I hadn’t eaten since 3 or 4 that afternoon and my stomach hurt from hunger. But I ignored it because I figured, I was sick and my throat hurt a lot, so I wasn’t in the mood to eat.
The next day, I was even more out of it. I slept in a bit, then mostly hung out in my room for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. I also didn’t eat anything until around 4 in the afternoon…and then it was only some applesauce, watermelon and later some banana softserve. I didn’t feel hungry at all that day, and I was just focused on trying to make my sore throat feel better. However, the lack of food for most of the day made me feel tingly (like the pins-and-needles feeling) and even more out of it. Truth be told, if my mom hadn’t insisted on me eating something, I probably wouldn’t have. Not good, I know, but it’s hard for me to eat when I’m not hungry or feeling good. I also did not take a full rest day. I have a really hard time taking a full day off from exercise, and I had already planned on taking the next day off from exercise because I was going to be out of the house for most of the day (I ended up not taking a rest day the next day, because I was feeling a lot better and had more time to workout that I thought). So I ended up doing some yoga for half an hour, nothing strenuous, and it didn’t exactly make me feel better. The stretch felt good but doing it made me feel a little dizzy and tired. I know that exercise can improve sickness symptoms, but I think it would have been better for me to try to rest as much as possible. It’s just hard for me to rest–I always feel so lazy and unproductive.
Being sick can be a slippery slope. You may be able to justify not eating or eating less when you’re under the weather, or working out through an illness, and then it becomes a trigger for further restrictive habits. I’ve experienced this even more when I had some stomach virus, and I could hardly make myself for a few days. I told myself it was because I didn’t want to make my stomach feel worse, but it ended up making it harder for me to return to normal eating. Same with working out. If you aren’t used to taking rest days regularly (which I’m guilty of), it can be hard to admit that you need to take a day or two off to let yourself recover. But exercising can make you feel worse, not better, sometimes, and in those cases it’s better if you take a break. It’s better to take a day off and feel better sooner than to exercise through it and end up prolonging your illness. Again, though, it can be hard not to let being sick start to control your habits again–you just have to be proactive and remember that taking care of yourself means continuing to eat while your sick and listening to your body. Even if you can’t eat your normal foods, it’s better to eat something than nothing. It’s something I’m still working on, but getting sick recently has made me realize that I still don’t have the healthiest mindset when it comes to getting sick.
Have you ever struggled with keeping up healthy habits while sick?