Celebrating your birthday in eating disorder recovery can be challenging. So many celebrations in life are riddled with expectations, and for those of us in any sort of recovery, the weight of these expectations can feel crippling.
Holidays in Eating Disorder Recovery
Eating disorder resolutions for the new year should focus on health, not food, weight, or exercise. All too often in this culture, New Year's resolutions focus on those things. It's just another confirmation that society as a whole is image-obsessed to an unhealthy extreme.
It's official: The holiday season has arrived, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner which means that eating disorder (ED) survival tips are now more important than ever. This time of year is known for family traditions and cultural festivities, but it can also feel like a burden if you are in recovery from an eating disorder. Maybe there's a relative who points out the number of calories everyone is about to consume at the dinner table. Perhaps your well-intentioned grandmother hounds you to take seconds on dessert or the conversation detours to how "healthy" and "normal" your weight has started to look.
New Year's resolutions for eating disorder recovery can often feel like undue pressure to reach arbitrary benchmarks or perform to certain standards and expectations. But in some cases, New Year's resolutions can actually help with eating disorder recovery—if you are intentional and realistic about them.
The prevalence of food shaming rituals around the holiday season presents an absurd contradiction. This time of year is undeniably food-centric, and there are both positive and negative implications for that. I will first address the positives—a shared meal is enriching, communal, intimate, and nostalgic. The experience is social, the atmosphere is filled with connection, and the memories created at the table become cherished family traditions. But in many cases, eating seasonal foods like mashed potatoes, biscuits, turkey, and stuffing can punctuate the mealtime with guilt, remorse, or insecurity. And that's when food shaming comments or behaviors materialize. This ritual is often distressing for people who face issues with body image and disordered eating, so I want to examine why food shaming intensifies around the holiday season and how to mitigate its adverse effects.
Hope in eating disorder recovery is a vital key to success (Hope – the Foundation of Mental Health Recovery). Without hope, we have nothing to look forward to but a life tortured by our eating disordered voice and patterns. We have day after day of a cruel, incessant voice in our ears about what failures we are. Hope, even if just a sliver, is like a thin whisper of smoke over the mountains when you’re wandering alone in the forest. That smoke says, “If I can just make it there, over the mountain stretch, there’s a place waiting for me by the fire.” So how do we raise our heads and see the thin veil of smoke as we wander? How do we keep hold of hope in eating disorder recovery?
How do you talk to someone with disordered eating around the holidays? The holiday season is a time of gathering and lots of food. The average person may complain of overindulging and gaining some turkey or pie weight. But for the person with an eating disorder, the joy of the holidays can be a time filled with anxiety (Surviving [and Thriving] During the Holidays With An Eating Disorder). Food is a part of celebration but for those with disordered eating, it can be difficult to maintain stability or stay on the recovery path. Added to that stress are the dreaded looks or awkward questions of friends and family members. Here’s how to be a supportive person and talk with someone with disordered during the holiday celebrations.
How do you talk to someone with disordered eating around the Holidays? The Holiday season is a time of gathering and lots of food. The average person may complain of overindulging and gaining some turkey or pie weight. But for the person with an eating disorder, the joy of the Holidays can be a time filled with anxiety (Surviving (and Thriving) During the Holidays With An Eating Disorder). Food is a part of celebration, but for those with disordered eating it can be difficult to maintain stability or stay on the recovery path. Added to that stress, are the dreaded looks or awkward questions of friends and family members. Here’s how to be a supportive person and talk with someone with disordered during the Holiday celebrations.
Patricia also made a great video about a year and a half ago about how to prepare for triggers in social situations. And while the food is panic-provoking, that is only half the battle. You also have to deal with people. I see family every year (which I look forward to) but because I only see these folks once or twice a year, I drive myself crazy wondering if I'm fatter or thinner than they saw me last. And, being well-meaning, loving people, my family want to tell me all sorts of supportive things about how great I look now that I'm in recovery. But, please, don't say these things about my eating disorder.
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.