10 Tips for getting through Christmas with an eating disorder
The holidays are always a difficult time for those living with or recovering from an eating disorder. There are all sorts of treats and snacks available, not to mention the family dinner. On top of all this, everyone is likely to be stressed out from trying to get the perfect gifts for their loved ones and there can be a lot of pressure to keep up the appearance of “holiday cheer” even when you’re struggling.
There are a million ways these pressures and stresses can lead to bad things like relapses or overwhelming anxiety for those recovering from an eating disorder, but you can still make it through the holidays unscathed with a little planning.
These simple tips can help you survive the holiday season without relapses or letting your eating disorder control your life.
- Try to focus on what the season is all about – People put a lot of emphasis on the food and gifts, but Christmas is really about spending time with those you care about most and celebrating. Do your best to keep this at the center of your holidays and spend less time thinking about the food.
- Feel free to set boundaries – You may not be able to control your family, but you can lay out some simple ground rules ahead of time to help establish a safe environment. For example, you can ask your family to please avoid commenting on your body or food choices. If someone violates these boundaries, it gives you the ability to state that you’ve asked for them to not do that and remove yourself from the conversation.
- Don’t be afraid to change the subject – Food is a popular topic of conversation, but there are plenty of other (more interesting) things to talk about. Steer the conversation away from uncomfortable discussions about food or diets by bringing up something else that you’re interested in talking about.
- Bring a buddy – Having someone you trust can be vital to making sure you have a lifeline if food anxiety or other issues appear.
- Share your concerns with friends and family – Your friends and family are your support system when you’re recovering from an eating disorder. Sharing your concerns can help them know how to better support you through the stressful holidays.
- Plan an escape – Think ahead and find somewhere safe you can get away to if things get to be too much for you. It can be somewhere quiet like a bathroom or bedroom away from all the commotion, or even your car. Anywhere you can clear your mind works.
- Don’t isolate yourself – It can be tempting to just hide yourself away at home, away from your family and the potential triggers that come with the holiday season. Don’t let yourself fall for it. It is always better to be with friends and family than alone, and isolation can lead to negative thoughts and feelings that could contribute to relapses.
- Stay away from social media – The holidays are one of those times when people work extra hard to show off how “perfect” their parties or family dinners were, but what you see isn’t always the reality. Avoid spending too much time on Facebook or Instagram, and try to keep in mind that everyone exaggerates online.
- Remember food is not the enemy – Stress and anxiety can trigger your instincts to avoid food or purge, but remember that food isn’t actually the problem. Let yourself enjoy the holiday meals in a healthy way and nourish yourself. The negative thoughts are the real enemy, not food.
- Take it one day at a time – We build up the holidays to the point where they seem like they matter more than almost any other day of the year, but the truth is Christmas is just one day. Don’t let the pressures of the holiday derail you or overwhelm you. Keep your eyes on the horizon and focus on taking your recovery one day at a time.