Navigating the Holiday Season and Eating Disorders
The holidays are upon us with the party season in full swing and it can be a frightening time for someone suffering or recovering from an eating disorder. Most of you must know by now that I consider myself recovered and that I've maintained recovery from bulimia for over 5 years. However, that is no to say that I don't have some moments or even days when I feel more vulnerable to some potential eating disorder triggers; especially during the holidays where an abundance of food, alcohol and festivities seem to be the norm for a few weeks. Here are a couple of tips on how to cope with an eating disorder during the holiday season.
Be Honest About Your Eating Disorder History
I tend to grab the bull by the horns in pretty much everything I do in life and maintaining recovery has been no different. For example, if I find myself feeling uneasy or stressed at a social gathering with acquaintances, I may share that I suffered from an eating disorder, typically when I explain my experience as a mental health volunteering in the community. This usually happens if I don’t really know these people, the evening involves food and drink (Coping with Food Anxiety in Eating Disorder Recovery), and I feel they can be compassionate towards my history with eating disorders. Even if the people aren’t that open, I’d usually rather speak up about having an eating disorder than risk getting nervous at times throughout the event, given the context, and trigger myself, as well as give the wrong impression to people, especially to the host if the event is privately held. In my opinion, I find it better to speak up about having an eating disorder and perhaps be labelled by my peers, rather than struggling on my own, while surrounded with people and risk continuing to have negative thoughts sometimes combined with thoughts of self-harm, especially knowing this situation can be managed by being proactive.
Be Prepared to Deal with Raw Emotions Surrounding Your Eating Disorder
During the Holiday season, say from mid-November until January 2nd or so, I also take preventative measures. I try to take more time for myself to relax, so that if there are a couple of dinner parties and outings that week, I at least can go into the event less stressed. This is especially necessary if you find yourself traveling and meeting a lot of people in the context of your career or studies. Also key is during that downtime, I give myself an inner pep talk. That way, I am comfortable and ready to face the public. I've already shared with you some of the inner dialogue which I feel is crucial to have on a daily basis to maintain recovery, but what you should also know is that I, too, have to work extra hard around this time of the year to manage my eating disorder triggers.
For example, a big trigger for me, is the fact that I feel guilty being around so much food, alcohol and overall abundance of all good things. As a result, I tend to want to restrict because I feel I don't 'deserve' access to all these things, considering my history with body image and self-harm. Of course, being able to rationalize my thoughts when this happens is necessary: I tend to immediately take some time alone to reframe all of this, even at times rushing to the nearest restroom or quiet place to calm down. Even better, I'll do the following if I can:
If I'm with someone I trust and feel comfortable doing so, I tell them I'm struggling and need to talk about it.
I've been surprised at how someone who loves me, cares about me or even someone who's simply an acquaintance can be helpful in times like these, and bring a fresh perspective on my struggles.
The more I share my experience as an eating disorder survivor, the more I realize that once I open up when I face a difficult situation, it is completely manageable to maintain recovery. There is also something very humbling about being able to reach out to others and admit I can't do it alone. Perhaps that is something to be thankful for this Holiday season; my relationships with people, even strangers, have taken on a different meaning since I've opened up about my history with bulimia.
Lemoine, P. (2013, November 19). Navigating the Holiday Season and Eating Disorders, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, April 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2013/11/navigating-the-holiday-season-and-eating-disorders
Author: Patricia Lemoine
I am a glutton. I don't know if that is a disorder, but it is very unhealthy and ruins my self-esteem. Thank you for this website. Blessed Holidays to all.
No one can diagnose you but your doctor, of course, but there are eating disorders that fall outside of anorexia and bulimia. I'll actually be posting about binge eating disorder next week. It's far less discussed than anorexia and bulimia, but is just as harmful to one's physical and emotional well-being.
Glad the HP website has been helpful to you - keep coming around and getting information and support! :)
Thanks Jess for the encouraging and constructive comment! Agreed on binge-eating, very harmful indeed.
Margaret: I agree with Jess, only your doctor can make this call, but, you can also use some tools to manage what you're going through, regardless of what an exterior person says or a diagnosis. I'm glad you foud this website. Thank you for reading us! It means a lot!
Thank u for this lovely post! I have been in the maintenance stage for 3 mths now and the idea of the holidays is terrifying to me. Your tips have helped a lot! Thank u :)
Thank you Anna!
Congratulations on your recovery!! I'm happy the tips have helped you! They help me me as well...I follow my own advice sometimes!
Happy Holidays to you and yours ;)
Such a difficult time of year for many who suffer with mental illness. I'm glad you're able to share what has helped you get through the holiday season, which tends to have a lot of pressure for us to be at certain events, eat certain foods, etc.
Thanks Steve! It does put a lot of pressure, when you combine family, friends, food and a lot of social activities packed in a just a few weeks!
Hopefully, we can all learn from one another to have a great time even though there might be some tougher days or moments to get through ;)
So happy I found this blog. Thanks you!
Thank you Sally! I'm glad you did too! Drop by again soon!