Navigating the Holiday Season
Let’s face it, navigating the holiday season can be extremely hard while you are in recovery for an eating disorder! Some factors that can make it even trickier include: new challenging foods and experiences that only come during the holidays; extended family or friends that may not be aware of your eating disorder; social anxiety/isolation being less feasible with more gatherings; if you do not have much family/supports; as well as events simply being centered around food/eating (i.e. Thanksgiving, holiday cookie exchanges, Halloween candy, etc).
So what are some ways to make impending holidays and the overall season easier for yourself?
Share your eating disorder and recovery journey with those who you feel comfortable with! Remember, EDs are incredibly secretive and isolating diseases, but keeping secrets can keep you sick. Sharing experiences can help to decrease shame and improve connection, but remember only if you feel ready and only with those you feel ready to share with.
Setting boundaries is also important around holidays and get-togethers this time of year. You can make the call to ask others to not speak about food/dieting, body image or weight at events. If you do not feel able to do this, you can ask to change the subject without any further explanation or leave the room. Setting boundaries is a way to advocate for yourself and your needs.
Use a meal plan. Individuals doing well in recovery may not usually meal plan daily any longer, but may need to on more challenging days (remember this is a strategy and a way to take care of yourself so no shame in needing to utilize it again). Whatever version makes sense to you or was recommended by your treatment team is fine (points/exchanges/calories/portioning).
Additionally, keep timing in mind. Even if you are not following a stringent meal plan, continue to aim for 3 meals and 1-3 snacks at normal meal times as much as possible. A good rule of thumb is to eat every 3-4 hours.
If you need a support person to plate your meals, sit next to you at meals, discuss urges that may come up - speak to this person before the holidays/gathering and make sure they feel comfortable being there for you on the day of.
Use distraction as needed. Things to try might be helping to clean the dishes, watching funny videos, doing a puzzle or playing a game, taking a short 10-15 minute walk or even calling someone not at the gathering that you find more supportive or helpful.
If you have little family support/connections or no major holiday plans, it will still be critical to plan meals and meal times. It will also be important to make a plan for your day. Some ideas you may enjoy: volunteer, read a book, watch movies/TV, attend religious services, journal. Try to stay busy, even if that means scheduling each hour.
I get it - the holiday season can be tough for a lot of reasons. And if this post resonates with you, I see you! But remember, advocate for your needs and try to challenge yourself. I bet you might surprise yourself with how strong you are :)