Holiday meals. I hear it all the time in the office, “I am skipping this holiday party. I’ll say I have a headache.” Food focused events are hardly a relaxing and enjoyable time for individuals who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating. It can be difficult to focus on the social connections of holiday gatherings given the common distraction of food. When you’re in an eating disorder, your brain is ALL about food. Food is the thing it will go to and you can’t stop thinking about what you are going to eat and nervously anticipating people saying something to you as a result.
The good news is, with some planning you can not only survive the holiday meals but you can be successful navigating the challenges and even enjoy yourself during the holiday season. It takes planning and being more mindful about what you are going to do, but you can be successful at your next holiday event.
Here are a few strategies to help with surviving holiday meals with an eating disorder:
1.Make A Game Plan
Instead of just “winging it” at your next holiday event. Have a plan even before you walk in the door. If you feel comfortable enough, ask the host what the menu will look like. Then, plan on what you will eat based on what your food plan entails. If needed, you can even contribute a dish that you know you’ll be able to eat. Make sure to avoid any trigger foods!
2.Embrace The Love Around You
It is easy to forget why we are at this holiday event. Your people love and want to be around you. They see you and not the Eating Disorder.
3.Let Your Guard Down
Recently, I have been asking my clients to give a voice to their Eating Disorder.
Giving it a voice, for some, takes all the power away. When at your event, start to be aware of the voice that says “Those potatoes have too much sugar in them!” Say thank you to the voice for being protective and just let that thought go. It’s okay to not be in full control all the time; you’ll learn to strike the right balance over time. Hey, you may even learn to like the feeling of letting go.
4.Set Boundaries With People Who May Comment On Your Appearance
You may know that Aunt Suzie will comment on your appearance because she does so every Christmas. But this time you will have the courage to set a healthy boundary. Let Aunt Suzie know ahead of time that while you appreciate her keen observation skills, you are a work in progress and you would rather not discuss weight or size at this meal. Knowing that her comments about weight have more to do with her than with you, don’t take that on! Weight is nothing but a number!
5.Call On Your Support Team
Your support team wants you to succeed. If you are having a particularly hard time, your therapist will be more than willing to talk you through a difficult time during the holidays (If that arrangement has been made ahead of time). Or maybe you have a close friend who knows your struggles. Call on them if you are triggered by a “fear” food. And, there are always 12 step groups (OA, FA, FAA) many who offer extra meetings, including phone meetings, during the holidays. The support any of these individuals provide can save you from a binge or purge!
Real Life Application
Put your recovery first, face the unknown, call on your team for support, show yourself grace. And enjoy the time you have with your loved ones-cherish every day you have with them as if it were the last. #yourrecovery #yourtribe
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