The holidays can be a particularly rough time of year for people struggling with an eating disorder. Here are some tips from my own experience and reminders for both the person struggling and their family and friends.
I remember when I was 17, just diagnosed with Anorexia a few months earlier, and my nutritionist asked me how I planned to handle Thanksgiving. I don’t think I’d even thought about it. At the time I was on a pretty rigid meal plan, but still of foods that I deemed “safe.” Thanksgiving was a whole other ball game.
Meals are hard for for anyone struggling with an eating disorder. A holiday that centers around food with tons of concerned family around is basically a living hell. The entire season, with it’s cookies and cocktails and parties, is really tough. Whether you’re in the depths of a disorder or fighting for recovery, you are battling a mind game now with ten times the pressure and eyes watching. It’s easy to let that pressure drive you deeper into your disorder or cause you to relapse. Any underlying anxieties can be exacerbated. What is supposed to be a fun, happy time is pretty much the opposite.
I’d highly encourage you to take a pre-emptive approach by scheduling more sessions with your therapist, and perhaps talking to one or two family members if you feel comfortable. Depending on where you are, either avoiding triggering situations or intentionally pushing past your comfort zone could be what you need. Until you are ready for true intuitive eating, having a plan can ease the anxieties and make holidays much more pleasant for both you and your family. So again, working with your team of professionals that know you and your specific situation is incredibly important.
Here are some reminders if you’re currently struggling with an eating disorder:
You don’t have to burn off the foods you eat. Food is not the enemy, and exercise is not a punishment.
Calories are a GOOD thing! We need calories to live. Our bodies perform ridiculously intricate and amazing tasks constantly to keep us alive. We have to nourish them so they can keep doing that!
Eating is a necessity, but also a source of pleasure, connection, and celebration.
Foods are neither good or bad. All foods can have a place in a healthy diet.
Give yourself endless grace. It’s OKAY to be struggling. It’s not your fault and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s okay to ask for help.
You are beautiful and worthy exactly as you are, and exactly as you will be once you recover.
Recovery is possible, and it’s so, so worth it.
Here are some reminders if you’re a family member or friend of someone struggling:
They didn’t choose this. Eating disorders are not choice.
Don’t talk about food or weight. Period.
Putting the focus on them will make it worse. The best thing to do is just be normal. There is so much turmoil in the mind of someone struggling that being treated normally can be the biggest gift.
The NEDA website has amazing resources for people struggling as well as family and friends. Check it out!
Sending love! xoxo