10 Ways To Survive The Holidays With An Eating Disorder

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


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...


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

An Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the t…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack