ARTICLES, HEALTHY LIVING & WELL BEING. EATING DISORDERS
Enjoying the Holidays When You Have an Eating Disorder
Christmas is less than a month away! For a holiday that is supposed to bring so much cheer, it sure seems to bring a lot of stress — for everyone. However, for someone struggling with an eating disorder, it can be especially stressful. The holiday season is filled with triggers and people who have no idea what you’re going through.
The holidays are filled with contradictory messages when it comes to food. Most holiday functions centre around food — but society encourages us to diet and attain the ‘ideal’ body.
The holidays are for relaxing and spending time with family — but society encourages us to prioritize exercise.
The holidays are a time to reflect on all that we have, and be thankful for it — society encourages us to use that time to critique ourselves and propose elaborate self-improvement plans.
Along with societal messaging comes the poking, prodding, and ‘innocent’ comments from family members. Of course, they (most often) mean well — but that doesn’t make their comments any less hurtful or triggering.
While each person experiences the holidays differently, there are universal strategies we can adopt to help make the holidays… well, happier!
Happy Holiday Strategies:
1: Keep Your Routine
There are 93 meals in December, “special” holidays meals should only account for 3-8 (depending on how many parties you’re going to). There is no reason you can’t stick to your regular eating schedule.
If you’ve been given an eating plan from your therapist or treatment team, make sure you discuss with them how you can best stick to this. Additionally, there are usually a lot of food options available — so be strategic in what you eat.
Choose what makes the most sense for you and your recovery journey.
2: Say ‘No’ If You Need To
You do not have to go to every holiday party you’re invited to.
If someone is going to be present that challenges your ability to stay on track, don’t go! Your mental health is more important than social obligations.
Only attend events that you feel you will be most comfortable. Will members of your support network be there? Can you leave if you feel overwhelmed? Ask yourself these questions before committing to an event.
3: Say ‘Yes’ If You Can
It’s important that you’re mindful of your limitations — but it’s also important that you don’t let your eating disorder dictate your whole life. Don’t isolate yourself based on fear. So what if your relatives think you’re crazy? Your journey is your own — not theirs.
Don’t let your eating disorder control your ability to enjoy yourself, or go to events, or engage in activities that you want to do. There might be some intimidating experiences at the Christmas parties you attend, but generally speaking, they are also filled with people who love you — no matter what you eat.
4: Bring Your Own Support
Whether it’s your spouse, significant other, parent, or friend — make sure someone there knows what you’re going through, and is committed to being available for a quick chat, pep talk, or swift exit if you need it. Just knowing that someone is there for you can be a powerful tool.
5: Stay In The Moment
Remember what the holidays are all about!
Be appreciative the gifts you’ve been given, and the people around you. It’s difficult to find meaning in moments of stress and panic; however, those moments are precisely the ones in which we need to focus on the meaning of Christmas.
Find non-food activities you can partake in that help you interact with your family in a meaningful way. Try things like Skating; Going for a walk and looking at Christmas lights; Playing a board game; Or even watching a favourite family movie.
Above All, Remember This:
You don’t need to justify your choices to others.
No much how much your relatives question you, or engage in diet-talk — you don’t need to prove to them that what you are doing is best for you.
You can change the subject. If a conversation or question makes you uncomfortable, kindly redirect the conversation. You are not in a courtroom and under-oath, so you are not required to talk about things you don’t want to.
Food is fuel, not your enemy. You are allowed to enjoy food. There is no inherent “good” or “bad” value to food. You do not need to “earn” your food, or “make up” for it the next day.
Staying silent will make things harder.
It’ll be tempting to keep all your anxiety and fear to yourself, but it will be MUCH harder to navigate the holiday season if you do. Let someone in! They can help you navigate the ups and downs. You will not be a burden to them.
Not only will you have a happier holiday, but they will also learn and better understand you — making the rest of the year that much better too.
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