Holidays with Dietary Restrictions in Eating Disorder Recovery
It is not my intention to make this blog post any form of commentary on religion itself, but as a part of an inter-faith family with Easter and Passover coming soon, I recently got to thinking of how religion’s restrictions on what we eat can impact someone in eating disorder recovery.
I started writing this post around Ash Wednesday. At the time, I had been dreaming of Springtime and the Easter egg hunts of my youth, which in turn got me thinking about the complexity of Easter as a Holiday, when in eating disorder recovery maintenance. Leading up to Easter, is the period of Lent, which pragmatically means restricting your eating habits. As part of an interfaith family, I am equally aware of the restrictions that Passover brings, on the eating of leavened food, or similarly, if one celebrated Ramadan, the dietary restrictions that come with that holiday. To those reading from other faiths, I apologize that I am not familiar enough with your own practices to know if similar practices exist.
In turn, I started pondering on how one can reconcile wanting to follow one’s religion in this context, given the impact that restricting food might have when one has a history of an eating disorder. Here are some of the tips I have gathered over time, in how to get through dietary restriction dictated by religious practice:
Holiday Resolution and Diet Restriction in Moderation
I don’t believe the point of any religion is to put your health (whether mental or physical) at risk. So, for me, the most important thing is to approach dietary restriction with some flexibility. By asking myself what the meaning is behind fasting, I am able to reconcile trying to support that religious goal, without depriving myself of my needed nutrients. Each year, I ask myself whether I should simply avoid eating certain foods, or should I opt to rigorously cut out all sweets during Lent? Sometimes, this starts up a wonderful internal dialogue about my faith and how it has evolved over time. And this is when it still amazes me that choosing to eat certain foods at certain times can be more than just an act of nourishment.
Cherish the Moments When You Break the Dietary Restriction
Holidays bring about a sense of tradition, and a part of that tradition is the celebrations we share with family and loved ones. As previously mentioned, I do eat healthier during Lent and I'm always happy to have chocolate or sweets come Easter. I also make it a point in the days leading up to Easter and Passover to plan and cook upcoming meals with my family or attend family dinners. Of course this type of holiday activity can be triggering at times, but overall, I must say that reminding myself why the holiday is meaningful to me keeps me centered. At this point in my life and eating disorder recovery, I tend to be thankful for the fact that eating a healthy diet is a choice and not a punishment, the way it used to be, alongside with restricting or fasting altogether.
Remember Not to Over Indulge When the Dietary Restriction Is Lifted
Whatever the dietary restriction is, at some point, that period does end, and when it does, I celebrate, within moderation. Much like the inner dialogue we have when we first reconcile the dietary restriction, I’m certain a similar dialogue must occur for after. Sure, enjoy what you were missing, but don’t overdo it. There will be other meals later on, and they too will allow you to eat the sweets, leavened bread, or any other item you were missing. Just find a way to reconcile and plan for that first meal, much like you planned for the restrictions, and you should be okay.
Finally, I’ll end by saying that what I've learned in the last few years, and what mostly guides me through and inspires me in my eating disorder recovery maintenance is that I truly feel I am not alone in this journey. Even during hard times, I feel there is a higher power watching over me, reminding me to be gentle with myself, even when I am choosing to watch my diet a little bit more closely during a specific holiday. So for those of you who will celebrate, have a happy and prosperous holiday, and see you next time!
Lemoine, P. (2014, April 8). Holidays with Dietary Restrictions in Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2014/04/dealing-with-holidays-involving-restrictions-in-eating-disorder-recovery
Author: Patricia Lemoine
This is a great article on the eating issues with holidays. Check out my blog for additional tips on body image problems that occur during holidays. http://emotionallyfit.blogspot.com
As a recovering anorexic, I choose to NOT follow Passover food restrictions. Part of the point of the restrictions is to remember being a "slave" (of sorts) and celebrating freedom. Since restricting my food intake in any way puts me in danger of going back into my own slavery of anorexia, I celebrate freedom by eating without any restrictions.
Great to hear Zoe, I'm happy you're doing well! Thanks for connecting! :)
There are no dietary restrictions on Catholics who are dealing with illnesses either physical or mental. There are only two days during the lentan calendar that call for fasting. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Those days you're also asked to abstain from meat. You can have fish though I'd being a vegetarian for a day doesn't appeal to you. As for fasting you are excused for health reasons if you need to be. So for people with ED they would not have to follow those traditions.
Thank you Kathryn for your message. From my own experience, and from my point of view in writing this post, I was speaking about having a former eating disorder and going through the Holidays today, as opposed to currently suffering from one during that time of the year. I see what you mean though, and thank you for bringing up an aspect I hadn't covered.
Awesome post, Patricia. As a Christian, I try to remember that the "something" I give up doesn't have to be food. One year I [attempted to] give up stepping on the scale. Another year I gave up pleasure reading (in favour of only reading the Bible). In my opinion, the practicing of fasting (from anything) is to give up things that take your focus from Christ. (This is different, I know, in Jewish culture and Passover, which is a remembrance and symbolic meal.)
Appreciate the support Jessica! True, there is solace to be found in giving up something, food or not during that time. It's important to think out of the box when going through recovery in order to face hurdles like these. The bigger lesson when we do is that there is almost always a solution for whatever problem we're faced with! Thanks so much for sharing and taking the time to write ;)
You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write.
The world hopes for more passionate writers like
you who are not afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow
Hi Elva. Thank you for writing such kind words. I do believe in writing from the heart. I'm happy you came across the Surviving ED blog!