Here's the thing about recovering from an eating disorder: there's no way to avoid food. You need it to live and, in many ways, food is how we show each other love, especially around the holidays. From shared meals to gift baskets, parties centered around a decadent spread, and pumpkin pie, turkey, and roast; food is a part of our celebratory, holiday culture. Which makes it a time filled with triggers for people in recovery from an eating disorder. People like me. Learning to survive the holidays with an eating disorder seemed like an unfair burden to shoulder.
When I was sick with anorexia and bulimia, shame engulfed me: Why couldn't I just be normal? All I wanted was to see my family and friends and feel part of their celebration. But my disease zapped my potential for joy, and I was filled with shame, rage, and envy. Envy of women who got to be thin and happy and who didn't (I assume) have their every thought consumed by food. Rage against my loved ones for watching my every move, trying to detect if I snuck off to the bathroom after a meal. Shame for doing this to myself. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I stop? My disease made me a selfish, gross, and ugly human, so far removed from the little girl who played carols on the piano with her kid sister keeping melody.
I wish I knew then what I know now — that it would eventually be OK. That I could learn to be good to myself, and that this torture was fleeting. I would soon become whole, healed/healing and managing recovery, in charge of my life again.
Maybe you're like I was back then, filled with anxiety and fear over how to deal with food over the holidays. I'm writing this for you, because I want you to know you can get through this and there are ways to survive the holidays with an eating disorder. I know because I'm surviving them, too.