How to Manage an Eating Disorder During the Holidays
When you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, the holiday season may be less than thrilling especially when there is a tremendous focus on food. For those suffering from eating disorders, the holidays often become a time to “just get through.”
Learn how to take power back from the eating disorder by planning ahead for your holiday celebrations because you deserve peace from beyond the plate.
If you are in treatment it will be helpful to dedicate sessions with therapists and dietitians etc to plan in advance what to eat. It may be a good idea to bring a relative to the sessions with you and to practise the meal in advance. If you know that being around certain foods will be difficult for you or that there may be other triggering situations, work with members of your support team to determine how you will address each stressor.
Part of preparing in advance for holiday parties and dining is to set healthy boundaries with friends and family. For example, if a popular topic of discussion at your holiday get-togethers is diet- or weight-related, know how you will redirect the conversation. You may ask your therapist or other support people to role-play this with you, so you have the confidence to advocate for yourself. One helpful trick is to ask those who continue these conversations about their own lives and derail their diet/weight talk.
Give Yourself A Break
Once you have finished your plate, put down your fork and knife and tell yourself you are “done” until the next meal. Sit at the dining table for only one meal and one hour. Different things work for different people, but it’s a good idea to think of some things that may help you relax away from the hustle and bustle of the main event. You could head outside for some fresh air, watch TV, read a favourite book, or even volunteer to do the washing up!
Shift the Focus
During the first hour after a meal you are extremely vulnerable. Plan ahead to fill that time. If food can feel overwhelming, find another aspect of the occasion that’s meaningful and enjoyable for you. Practice engaging with others, using your prepared conversation topics, activities, and intent of listening carefully. You might set a goal to learn two new things about everyone you speak to. You can even see whether you can invent some new traditions that aren’t related to food. Ultimately, reflect on what the holidays mean to you.
Take Home a Doggy Bag
If you wish you ate other things that were not on your plate during mealtime, ask for a doggy bag! Save it for your next allocated snack and/or meal. Do this by reminding yourself that you don’t have to eat everything because it will be there for you to enjoy later, when your body can use it for nourishment and enjoy it.
One of the most important things you can do during the holiday season is to practise self-care. What will make you feel the most grounded and the least triggered? Self-care looks different for everyone. It should mean being flexible and allowing yourself to do what you need to do when you need to do it. The practice of self-care also means being compassionate and forgiving with yourself. Give yourself grace, eliminate negative self-talk, focus on reconnecting with others, or rediscover activities you enjoyed before the eating disorder.
If you or your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, we encourage you to please speak with a healthcare provider. Click here to access treatment and support.