Surviving the holidays when you have an eating disorder is not always easy. If you are like many of my clients you are not looking forward to the holiday parties, events, dinners, and plans.
For most, this is overwhelming because you know there will be food involved and fear is what causes you anxiety. You are worried:
- People will judge what you are eating
- Make comments about your body
- Make comments about your food
- People will stare at you while you are eating
- Someone will say something to upset you
- A family member(s) will cause you anxiety and stress, and indirectly impact your appetite and ability to eat comfortably.
Not all families are supportive and spending time with family members can cause stress, upset, and anxiety. I have some tips to help you survive the holidays if you have an eating disorder.
Let me start by saying that this should not replace therapy. There are different types of eating disorders and each one is different. Each individual is different and I cannot speak to the specifics of every experience. Rather this Survival Guide is to serve as a guide for some tips to help you during this holiday season.
- Align your support. Identify a supportive friend or family member that will be attending events and parties with you. Let them know you are struggling with an eating disorder and you want their help. Let them know that you may need them to help you manage a difficult interaction with someone or get you out of a triggering or destructive conversation.
- Allow your support to help you eat. Let them know you need to follow their guidance for how to portion your meal and what foods to eat. They are going to be your guide. It does not have to be perfect here. Rather know that what they eat is also OK for you to eat. Your eating disorder causes you to doubt yourself and how to feed yourself, so rely on your support to be your dose of reality during these holiday meals.
- There are no rules for eating. Know that you can eat what you want. You can portion what you want. It can be really hard to know what food to eat and how much food to eat. Following someone else can help you navigate your own meal – attuning to what they deem an appropriate amount all the while balancing that with your current and past experience with food and meal preoccupations. Use others at the meal to help pace you while you eat. Use conversation to help you remain mindful during holiday eating.
- Have a plan. Speak to your therapist and your dietician and have a plan for what to eat at the meal. Prepare a set of coping strategies should you become anxious or should a family member become critical or judgmental. A plan will help you feel in charge, and despite not being able to control everything that may arise, it can help you feel prepared to respond to events that may become challenging.
- Know that all foods are OK. There are no rules for what food to eat and what food to not eat. All foods fit. You can eat whatever you want. There are no rules for portions. Again eat what you want. Write this down if you need to. Perhaps a list of positive affirmations can help you get through the meal.
- Remember your eating disorder is a liar. It is going to lie to you about your body, about the food, and about the others you are with. It is going to convince you of some really upsetting things. Know your eating disorder is lying to you to keep you sick. Work with your treatment team to learn the difference between eating disorder thoughts and your own recovery thoughts, and have a plan to challenge those eating disorder thoughts.
- Do not follow any diet, fitness, or weight loss sites, pages, or individuals during this time (or anytime for that matter). Go ahead and remove notifications and possibly unfollow these social media outlets. There is going to be a lot of diet talk and weight loss talk during the holidays and these sites will trigger you. If you can unfollow them you will be setting yourself up for success during your holiday parties, events, and meals.
Do what you can to enjoy this time. Spend time with friends and loved ones that truly support you and try to understand what you are going through. This time of the year can be tough, but it can also be joyful and powerful in your recovery. The most important thing you can do is reach out to your support and let them know what you need from them to help you. If you don’t know that is OK, just reaching out is often times the biggest and best step you can take.
Dr. Stephanie Waitt specializes in treating eating disorders at her practice, Texoma Specialty Counseling. In her work with people she aims to help young men and women find balance, peace, confidence, and happiness with their bodies, relationships, and life. She emphasizes the importance of self-care and encourages people that being a little selfish is a really good thing. Stephanie is also an online body image and self-esteem coach. In her recovery coaching Stephanie helps people learn to find peace with their bodies and ditch dieting.
She helps people find confidence and the power to live the life they want right now! You can learn more about her practice and online recovery coaching at
www.texomaspecialtycounseling.com. She offers you a free 7-Day Confidence Building Challenge at www.notafailure.com.