It’s that time of year again–and it’s hard to believe that I’m even typing that. I feel like just yesterday I was posting the twelve days of recovery tips over on the @feedmerecovery instagram and it was my first holiday season with both my blog and my instagram account!
If there’s one thing I hear the most from clients and from all of you on the internet, it’s that the holidays are triggering, emotional, and stressful. I don’t think this comes as a surprise to many, but either way, it’s always worth revisiting when the leaves start to fall and the days get colder.
I reached out on instagram and asked people to share their concerns…here are some of the themes you all responded with!
I think for some, the hardest part of the holidays can be the social aspect. We end up seeing a lot of relatives or friends that we haven’t seen in a long time, and that’s stressful whether or not you have an eating disorder.
Pair that with the diet/disordered comments that people tend to make right and left, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a tough time.
I’ve talked before about responding to triggering comments around the holidays, and I still stand by the idea that it’s so important to set healthy boundaries with people. My friend Jess over at whollyhealed.com (follow Jess here) posted something recently amazing about boundaries–I’ll share it below.
Telling people that something they’ve said or done is not okay can not only help them learn and grow, but it will help you feel more confident using your voice and advocating for your needs (especially your recovery needs)! More on this type of conversation here.
It can feel uncomfortable at first when you set a limit with someone, but in my experience, it gets a lot easier! I look at this type of limit setting (when people make disordered comments) as a way to continue educating others about diet culture and recovery!
Another topic brought up was what other people might think about your food choices. A lot of you expressed feeling concerned about if family members think you’re restricting when you’re not, when family members EXPECT you to struggle, and all of the judgment that can occur. To me, this topic ties back to boundaries.
It can be hard to eat at a table when it feels like everyone is watching you, so this might be a boundary to set with family or friends. If you don’t feel comfortable telling your Aunt Susan to keep her eyes on her own plate, maybe you could ask someone else to let her know it makes you uncomfortable. Either way, it can be helpful to remember that recovery is for YOU.
Speaking up for yourself can be hard–and it might not be something you feel comfortable doing yet. I totally get that. For me, setting boundaries with people has been key to my own recovery and my own sanity! And I promise that you have the right to tell cousin Cathy that talking about your ED or your recovery isn’t necessarily helpful. Good luck!
It can also be hard to make it through the holiday season without using behaviors, which is why it can be so important to find the extra support you need. Whether that’s a recovery buddy, a helpful mantra or quote, or even just a trusty coping skill, being prepared can make all of the difference.
I personally believe that one of the best ways to avoid using behaviors is to do your best to listen to your body. It can be hard to resist the temptation to use a behavior when you’re feeling so overwhelmed, but checking in with hunger/fullness cues is a great place to start. If you’re struggling with a restrictive eating disorder, it can be helpful to check in with your wise mind and remember that food is not harmful. Eating Thanksgiving dinner will not change your body drastically and using a behavior will not make holidays less stressful.
A thing I’ve heard from clients in preparation for the holidays is the desire to restrict leading up to a big meal. Sometimes people make comments about “needing to burn dinner off,” or “not eating tomorrow,” because they ate so much today. I’m here to tell you that those comments are *extremely disordered* and they only speak to that person’s own unhealthy behavior. You need to fuel your body today regardless of your intake yesterday or tomorrow.
A few of you have shared the concern about bingeing around the holidays, and first, I want to say that this is a really common concern. For people who struggle with binge eating disorder or any type of bingeing behavior, avoiding the urge to binge around the holidays can be extremely tough. Emotions run high, trigger foods might be present, and this is a great example of when checking in with our emotions (remember HALT!) can be helpful. Hunger/fullness cues are a great help as well!
I always try to remind clients to take time out when they’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Sometimes that looks like taking a second in the bathroom alone to give yourself a pep talk (my personal fave!) or even taking a minute to breathe, meditate, or text a friend. It’s important to be kind to ourselves around these stressful times, and remember that we aren’t perfect.
If you need to avoid certain events or experiences because they’re dangerous to your recovery, that’s okay! You need to do what is best for YOU.
I recognize, however, that taking time to recognize yourself and your needs can be hard–our EDs trick us into thinking that we don’t deserve health and happiness, and that we definitely don’t deserve to take care of ourselves. This holiday season, I challenge all of you to find a way to be nice to yourselves at each function and gathering.
Here are some ways I plan on doing that:
- Thanksgiving — Logan has to work this year (I guess sports happen 24/7) so I’ll be heading to see my family without him. When I talked to my dad about our plans, I told him that my one condition is that I want to eat a home-cooked meal. Some of our family will eat out on Thanksgiving, but at this point in my life (and my recovery) a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner is not something I’m willing to miss!
- Christmas Eve — This day is almost a bigger holiday in my family than Christmas Day itself. We’ve got two parties to go to and a BUNCH of people to see. I always need to take some breaks, get a coffee, and just relax in between parties in order to make it through. Singing along to holiday music in the car is also a personal hobby 🙂
- Christmas Day — wear something comfy! My Christmas Day is pretty casual, my family spends the day at my aunt’s house and we all just exchange gifts, eat good food, and spend time together. It’s become a personal tradition to wear something that I feel good in. My family doesn’t care how I look, and while I might not wear pajamas, I definitely want to be comfy!
Check out my previous posts about the holidays: Thanksgiving, general holiday post, and my response to the “new year, new you” diet trends.