The holiday season is known as a time where family and friends gather, exchange gifts, drink and feast. While many people may anticipate this time of year, others may not want to participate because of the stress and anxiety that it brings. With a season so heavily focused on big meals, cookies, cakes, and more, it does not come as a surprise that someone who suffers from an eating disorder would want to avoid it at all costs. Since the holidays can provoke increased challenges with food, it is important to develop tools that help with recovery, because you deserve to have a happy holiday season.
Tips to help you cope…
1. Acknowledge where you’re at in your recovery
Remember that although the situation you’re in is not the most ideal, you are still on the path to recovery. In saying this, it is important to acknowledge that there will be some things that will be triggering AND you are allowed to feel upset or anxious. At the end of the day, nothing can change the progress you have made and how far you have come.
2. Create a plan
While it’s difficult to determine how an event will go, preparing yourself mentally is a good way to help you take control of any situation that arises. You can prepare yourself by writing down different conversation starters of subjects you feel comfortable discussing, or positive statements that can help you get through the event.
Examples could include:
“Whatever I am feeling is valid and I deserve to enjoy my time here”
“I can’t control other people’s actions, I can only control how I respond”
“I am strong and I am worthy”
“Today, I choose recovery”¹
3. Have a support system
There are people that love you and are there for you no matter what you’re experiencing. While it may be tempting to shut people out, it is extremely important that you stay close to your support system. Whether it be having a designated friend to accompany you to holiday parties or just having someone to talk to about how you’re feeling, being able to communicate with someone about your worries will help lift some weight off your shoulders.
4. Set boundaries
It’s not uncommon for family members to make comments about another person’s weight or new diets that they have tried. If you are anticipating someone saying things that may trigger you, practice what you would say to them beforehand. In the moment, don’t be afraid to tell people how their comments are affecting you. You may respond with, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about […], can we change the subject?” or “I would appreciate it if we spoke about something else.”
5. Shift your focus away from food
With all that we’ve been through during the pandemic, being able to spend some time with family and friends truly is a gift. Try to remember that you are surrounded by people you love and people who love you. Let yourself enjoy listening to the holiday music, watching movies, playing games, exchanging presents, or simply being in one another’s company.
The most important tip that we can provide is to give yourself permission to eat your favourite foods. Try to remind yourself that your eating disorder voice is not YOUR voice, and that you are allowed to eat the foods that would otherwise bring you joy. The consequences of not doing so can lead to obsessive thoughts and a sense of a lack of control. The same is true if you feel guilty even after allowing yourself to eat your favourite foods. Your body and your mind know when they are being deprived, whether it be literal or subconscious.
It’s important to remember that your feelings are always valid! Feeling anxious and upset during a time of year that is so focused on food is normal, especially when struggling with an eating disorder. Take it one day at a time, and ultimately each event as it comes. Have self-compassion and remember that falling off track is not the equivalent to failing, but a new lesson to be learned.
By: Vanessa Anoia, Office Coordinator
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1. Coping with eating disorders during the holidays. (2021, July 20). Magnolia Creek. Retrieved from https://www.magnolia-creek.com/eating-disorder-recovery-blog/coping-with-eating-disorders-during-the-holidays/
2. Coping with an eating disorder during the holidays. (2021, November 22). Mental Health First Aid. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2021/11/coping-with-an-eating-disorder-during-the-holidays/
3. Ringer, J. (2019, December 16). Tips and tools for handling eating disorders around the holidays. Loma Linda University Health. Retrieved from https://news.llu.edu/health-wellness/tips-and-tools-for-handling-eating-disorders-around-holidays
4. Tips for coping with an eating disorder at Christmas. (2020, December 23). YoungMinds. Retrieved from https://www.youngminds.org.uk/young-person/blog/tips-for-coping-with-an-eating-disorder-at-christmas/