Fotolia

10 Ways To Survive The Holidays With An Eating Disorder

By
Share
Ad failed to load

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.

Ad failed to load

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.

Ad failed to load

Remember That You're Not Alone

giphy

There's a woman or man who's feeling exactly what you're feeling right now, and knowing that you're not alone in your pain is a comfort. The Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center offers online and phone counseling for people with eating disorders, as well as a comprehensive guide of in-person groups.

Your family and friends love you but, sometimes, you need someone who's living through your pain to feel less alone. So, reach out. I promise, you won't regret it.

It's OK To Say No To Parties...

giphy

Know your limits. If that office party with a fondue fountain is going to stress you out, skip it. I've never regretted self-care. Although people might act like they're disappointed you're not going, guess what, they'll get over it.

...But Resist The Temptation To Isolate

giphy

According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), people with eating disorders put themselves at-risk when they isolate, and are more likely to engage in destructive, addictive behaviors when they alienate themselves from others. So, although you don't have to go to every holiday party you're invited to, you don't have to lock yourself away either.

NEDA suggests you host a small gathering and serve food that you're comfortable eating, or eat a small portion of something you wouldn't normally eat. Small steps are crucial in this tense time, so do your best to socialize around food in a way that's a minor challenge. You can even strategize how to do this with a counselor. Don't be embarrassed or feel ashamed about your discomforts. They are part of your disease, and trained professionals have heard it all and make it their job to come up with solutions for you, especially during the holidays.

Ad failed to load

Participate In Non-Food Related Activities

giphy

Holiday celebration is about ice-skating. It's about arts and crafts. It's about volunteering for charities. It's about making snow angels. It's about dancing. It's about puppies. It's about whatever the hell you want it to be about, so it doesn't have to be about food.

Keep A Gratitude Journal

giphy

The organization Eating Disorder Hope reminds you that eating disorder recovery is spiritual. Eating disorders can become your bible, but that's the disease taking over your life. You're more than your disease; you're a spiritual being who can trust in yourself, the person you came into the world as.

Try to channel your spirituality by giving thanks for things in your life that make you happy. When I was sick, I would have moments of mindfulness when I wasn't thinking about myself, but rather the universe around me. In those moments, I felt free. Journal your way into a greater spiritual understanding of yourself, even if recovery sounds too scary right now.

Move Your Body

giphy

Another way to help you channel your spirituality is to quiet your mind. To stop the thoughts that can be all-consuming, move your body. Stretch, go for a walk to feel the wind against your face, take a yoga class; whatever helps you focus on the physical (and, in turn, not "focus" at all).

Remember, you can do whatever type of exercise as long as your goal is to channel mindfulness, not burn calories.

Ad failed to load

Plan Ahead

giphy

For those holiday dinners you can't get out of, I can't stress this enough: Plan ahead. According to Psychology Today, visualization can help you tackle stressful situations by helping you see what you want to see — and then making it happen. Have your answers to meddling family members ready, because while those family members have good intentions, their questions about your disordered eating are not helpful in the moment.

Visualize how you want to handle these scenarios. See it, manifest it. A mental health counselor can help you prepare for all kinds of situations you're likely to face. Armed with a plan — whether that means bringing food that makes you feel comfortable to a holiday dinner, or how to handle the feelings that drive your disease — you can survive the holiday dinner. You might even enjoy yourself.

Have An Exit Strategy

giphy

You might want to have an exit strategy in mind. Phone your host beforehand and let her know that you're dealing with a lot of stress, and ask if she could she offer you a quiet space to gather your thoughts if you're feeling overwhelmed. Although you don't have to exit a party for good, it doesn't hurt to have a sanctuary in mind in case you get triggered for the occasion when things begin to trigger you.

Tune Out The Media

giphy

The "most wonderful time of year" is also filled with ads about how to lose those holiday pounds, even before the last bite of roast is digested. Consider all of this white noise, people. These ads have nothing to do with you.

Ad failed to load

Have Yourself A Merry Little Holiday

giphy

Although the holidays are a time to connect with your family and friends, you can and must use this time to connect with yourself. Whether it's time out to take a hot bath, schedule an extra therapy session, reflect on your progress; self-care practices are nurturing to your body, mind, and soul. Self-care is a choice: a choice you're making for you. When you remember that you are driving your body, mind, and soul and not the other way around you will feel stronger than ever, eating disorder and all.

And you know what? That's the first step to recovery.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How To Introduce Your Pet To Your Baby & Make Everything As Calm As Possible

Our home, which we lovingly refer to as “the funny farm,” is filled with four-legged family members. We have two crazy beagles and two cat jerks, and boy are they loved and spoiled. (As they should be.) But we are now finally having a baby of our own…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}