For most people, the holidays are an exciting time of year filled with family gatherings, gifts, and joyous memories. One of the major highlights of the holiday season for many is the joy of sitting down to a traditional table filled with a smorgasbord of food. But for someone who has an eating disorder, the holidays can be a time of dread instead of a time of joy. Being expected to face food like everyone else is enough to invoke a tremendous amount of anxiety.
Even though the holidays can be tough if you have an eating disorder, it does not mean the season has to be an utter nightmare with nothing to enjoy. There are a few coping tips to keep in mind as the season approaches.
Identify Problems and Create Solutions in Advance
One of the things you learn in eating disorder treatment is you can save yourself a lot of turmoil later if you anticipate certain situations and create a plan of how you will respond. For example, if you are afraid you will look rude when someone offers you something you do not want to eat, come up with friendly and reasonable responses you can use in advance. An example would be, “Oh no thank you, shellfish doesn’t sit well in my stomach.” or “Wow that looks great! But I am trying to avoid dairy products right now.” If they question your choices, it’s always best to give a quick reminder that you are trying to be healthy, and your dietary choices don’t affect them.
Refrain from Restricting Calorie Intake Before the Holiday Meal
Many people who struggle with an eating disorder will refrain from eating, exercise profusely, or do other things to try to lose weight before the holidays. This behavior often backfires; by the time you get to the planned event, you may be so hungry that it will be difficult to control compulsively eating. Instead, follow a meal plan and try not to arrive at the holiday meal when you haven’t eaten. Eating a healthy meal that you feel good about prior to attending the holiday party is a great way to cope with feeling guilty for eating something indulgent at the event.
Talk to Your Loved Ones In Advance
Eating disorders are often a secretive thing. However, when people do not know you have an eating disorder, they can seem really insensitive even when they don’t mean to be. For example, a relative may continuously try to push desserts on you or attempt to pile extra servings on your plate. It is far better if you can be open with your closest family members about your eating disorder and some of the situations you find most uncomfortable or triggering. At the holiday meal, they can try to help thwart certain situations.
Be Kind to Yourself
Holidays can be anxiety-filled and almost traumatic for an individual that has struggles with food. If you are particularly scared about the impending holidays, make sure you are kind to yourself. You are growing, learning, and working towards being a healthier human being. That is worth acknowledgement and celebration! Have a great holiday, and remember to focus on what matters - your happiness.