New Year's is always a difficult time. Why? From TV to your phone to subway ads, people are insisting you resolve to get skinny in the New Year. But bear in mind, ways to handle New Year's diet resolutions when you have an eating disorder are not only vital to your mental health; they can save your life.
When I was 10, I purchased a box of petit-fours from a mail order catalog. I'd convinced one of my parents that it was a Christmas gift for the other, but I had no intention of sharing these delights. I can still remember the night I tore open the box and devoured all the petit fours, hiding the remains in my closet until after New Year's. I then resolved to be better; to be less of a pig. Full of shame and self-disgust, I was a kid suffering from disordered eating, even though had no real sense of what my malady was; only the pain I felt. By the time I turned 11, I was at war with my body. The battle would reach a boiling point when my 14 -year-old self weighed 79 pounds. I'm older now, and even though I'm in recovery, what plagued me as a young child still plagues me, today.
Eating healthier and exercising are two very common New Year's resolutions, but based on your personality and or genetics, if taken to the extreme, these resolutions can turn into disordered eating, according to the Eating Recovery Center (ERC). Starting out with what seems like small changes in eating habits or exercise patterns may not seem like a warning sign that something is wrong, but when they become compulsive and start to interfere with your day-to-day life, they can be dangerous — even deadly. According to Janet Whitney, M.A., M.F.T. and the Eating Disorder Program Director at Sovereign Health in California, who has over 30 years of expertise treating eating disorders, tells Romper that an eating disorder is a mental illness. A fatal one. In fact, she says, it has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. "Someone passes away every 62 minutes from an eating disorder."
When your resolve to "eat clean," becomes a compulsion, you might be at risk for developing disordered eating. According to the American Psychological Association, orthorexia results from an obsession with eating clean and has mental and physical consequences. Respectively, when it comes to working out, when your workout routine goes from wanting to work out to having to work out, noted the ERC, this could be signs of a problem.
In my recovery, I'm living one day at a time, which sounds like recovery-speak because it is. The following help me deal with all the New Year's diet resolution hoopla because, for me, it's just not an option.
Just Say No
For people like me, in recovery from disordered eating, a New Year diet is simply not an option. "Eating disorders can be triggered very suddenly, so there is no reason to poke the beast if you are doing well with your mental and physical health. It can be a very slippery slope from a diet to relapse," wrote Courtney Howard for Eating Disorder Hope. Your diet resolution can be: I resolve not to diet.
Practice Self-Care Daily
Eating disorders essentially put into practice self-loathing. I mean, are you happy when you do a juice cleanse? Be honest. When struggling with maintaining my recovery, I tell myself that I'm committed to loving myself, so I make sure to carve out time to do something nice for myself — read a book, get a pedicure, pet a puppy — everyday. When I'm feeling triggered, I up the self-care program.
Pick Up A New Hobby
Keeping my hands busy helps me stay active and takes my attention away from being tempted to start thinking about my diet. I've dedicated myself to creating a winter garden because nurturing something outside of myself feels amazing.
Clean Your House
You know how I feel about juice cleanses. Not an option. Instead, I'll take this take to clean house — declutter and make space for the person who lives inside this body.
Shift Your Perspective On Exercise
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), an estimated 3 percent of gym-goers have a destructive relationship with exercise. When you feel guilty if you miss a workout, it's a sign to rethink your relationship with exercise. For me, exercise is a chance to get my endorphins going and reminds me how freely I can move in this world.
Tune Out Comments About Your Body Size
People who don't know you have an eating disorder or are in recovery might make a passing comment about your body size — insensitive, yes, but that's all. Do not ruminate on this. You've got more important things to do with your time than worry about what other people think about your thigh gap.
Avoid Making Comments On Other People's Body Size
For me, as soon as I start scoping other people's bodies, I know that I'm on a slippery slope to the illness of disordered eating. Again, it's time to switch perspectives, and rather than focussing on what other people's bodies look like, I need to focus on what beautiful things bodies can do.
If you find yourself making goals around diet or exercise, it's super important to stay flexible in your resolve. For example, I might aim to try a new barre exercise class in the New Year because I want to see what my muscles are capable of. I am extra kind to myself if I don't meet my goals, because once I start being rigid about diet and exercise routines, I'm messing with my recovery.
Beware Of Binge Eating Disorder
With all the New Year diet resolution hoopla in our culture, you might find yourself restraining from your favorite holiday treats only to set yourself up for a late-night binge. This might result in binge eating disorder, which is disordered eating characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort) according to the NEDA. If you see this happening on the regular, you should seek treatment cautions the NEDA.
If you feel overwhelmed by the noise of New Year's diets and all the fuss people make about them, don't keep it to yourself. Call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also call 877-789-5758, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the treatment website to speak with a Masters-level clinician at the Eating Recovery Center.