Sticking to eating disorder recovery is especially hard around the holidays. It's a perfect storm: crazy family dynamics coming together, general high stress levels as shoppers try to complete their shopping needs, and, of course, tons of rich trigger foods everywhere. It's a difficult time, food-wise, even for people who don't have eating disorders!
To help ease the burden, I've created these 10 tips for surviving the holidays. Some of them might be things you've heard before, but they all bear repeating. Stay strong. Email me if you feel the need to vent - I am here for you. And--most of all--you can do it!
Dos and Don'ts: 10 tips for surviving the holidays with an eating disorder
Do allow yourself extra calories. I know this one is hard, but if you go into the holiday season expecting that you will consume more calories during the holidays than other times of year, it takes a lot of pressure off. It makes it easier to forgive yourself if you do eat more, because you've already given yourself permission.
Do inquire about the occasion. If you are going to a holiday party, ask the host or hostess what to expect, food-wise. You don't have to take the "I have an eating disorder and I need to know!" tactic - you can be more gentle. You can inquire if there's anything you can bring, which opens the conversation to what will be served. You can ask if it's a sit-down affair or a buffet by asking "what kind of wine should I bring?".
Do bring a food you "trust" to events. If it's appropriate, bring a food you trust to holiday events--this will mean that if eating other people's creations stresses you out too much, at least you have something you can enjoy, so you won't get too hungry and make bad food decisions.
Do talk to family and friends about it. Sometimes saying "I think I'm feeling crazy about food right now" can help your situation more than you'd think. And even if they don't understand...at least you've taken some of the craziness out of you and into the world. It can diffuse better in the world.
Do treat yourself in a non-food way. You know, holidays are not just about food - they are about presents, too! Buy yourself a nice one. Whether it's a massage or manicure or a new sweater, it doesn't have to be all about food treats this holiday season.
Don't avoid holiday parties. If you avoid holiday parties because you're afraid of overindulging, you're not doing yourself any favors. You're missing out on the fun, and this will make you feel resentful, which can lead to disordered behavior. It's better to be part of the fun!
Don't be pressured into eating or drinking. Even if your Aunt Ethel approaches you saying "try this!" with a big tray of deviled eggs...you don't have to eat it. Do not worry about hurting someone's feelings. If they know you have an eating disorder, they should know better; if they don't, you need to gently decline. You can say that you just brushed your teeth, that you're saving your appetite...whatever. But you do not have to eat just because someone hands you something.
Don't starve yourself. You know it's true. If you don't eat all day in anticipation of a holiday dinner out, you'll binge like there's no tomorrow. If you eat normally, you won't. Don't starve yourself. It is never a good idea. And don't even think about being drunkorexic (saving calories so you can drink). It will make you throw up messily, will make you not care about eating and possibly binge, and overall is just not a good scene.
Don't make weight loss resolutions. Just don't do it. It's your eating disorder latching on to a disfunctional phenomenon which for some reason is considered normal and OK in society. Take the high road: extract yourself from such conversations with haste.
Don't play into the jokes about holiday weight gain. If someone jokes about getting fat over the holidays or having to go on a diet after the new year, do this: GET AWAY. Remove yourself from the conversation, or at least change the subject. This is not the right conversation or topic for you.