Nature Is My First Line of Defense in Eating Disorder Recovery
In November of 2019, I moved to Arizona where the mountains and desert landscape are right outside my window. Before that, I lived in Florida about 10 minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico’s turquoise ocean and sugar-white sand. I always feel the most alive and at peace when I am outside, so it stands to reason, nature is my first line of defense in eating disorder recovery. The sensation of my feet rooted in the earth, a breeze prickling the hairs on my skin, fresh inhales of oxygen in my chest, and the sun’s warmth across my forehead—all of these visceral, sensory experiences awaken me to the care of my own body. When I crave healing, I immerse myself in nature.
How Connecting with Nature Helps My Eating Disorder Recovery
When that eating disorder voice in my head tries to disarm me with fear and insecurity, nature is my first line of defense. Instead of allowing those harmful thought or behavior patterns to overwhelm me, I just slide on my sunglasses, lace my sneakers, and grab my water thermos to head outside. I need to connect with a slice of the world that is separate from my eating disorder. I need to press my hand against the fibrous texture of tree bark. I need to hear the rustle of wind as it grazes past my ear. I need to crane my neck upward and marvel at the infinite blue sky. I need to run on a coarse, desert trail or to hike in the sloping, weathered mountains.
These environments soothe, ground, center, and nourish me—the eating disorder is less persuasive when the balm of nature comes to my defense. The more time I spend outside, the more parallels I notice between the earth and the human body. Just like nature requires sunlight and water help it thrive, a body also depends on sustenance. The body I inhabit needs gentle exercise and healthy food to preserve, fuel, energize, and keep it alive. If I want it to be strong like the current of an ocean or to grow like the arms of a cactus, then I must care for this body—not starve and abuse it. That lesson is why nature remains my first line of defense in eating disorder recovery.
Time in Nature as an Eating Disorder Recovery Coping Mechanism
A regular connection point with nature is one of my favorite coping mechanisms for eating disorder recovery. I feel detached from myself if I do not carve out 30 minutes to spend outside each day. Whether I walk around my neighborhood in the morning, read a novel on my patio in the afternoon, run the canal path near my apartment in the evening, or sprawl on the grass and watch the stars with my husband at night, these practices are essential to my continued healing. Nature is my first line of defense in eating disorder recovery, and I am thankful it exists on the other side of my front door.