Healing Through the Holidays

It’s snowing and feels like it’s -20 outside. Wintertime. Let the holidays begin.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all other holidays are meant to be joyful times. Times to be with our families, celebrate life, enjoy good food, and simply relax. And yet the chaos of the season can leave us stressed and overworked. However, when suffering or recovering from an eating disorder, the holidays can bring on a whole different level of stress.

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Uncontrollable food situations.

The countless amount of sugary desserts.

The family and friends commenting on your appearance or behaviors.

It can be absolutely maddening. How will you control what you eat? What if you can’t go about your routine for a few days? The thoughts begin to spiral out of control, if we let them.

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But realize you don’t have to feel “normal.” Yes, you may be out of your comfort zone, but take it as an opportunity to work on recovery. Enjoy the time with family and friends. Focus on them, rather than the food. Easier said than done, I know.

But here are some tips to enjoy–not just survive!–the holidays:

  1. Write down goals for each event.

Stressed about attending that party at work? Worried that Aunt Carol will only offer “off-limit” food, like fatty ham or sugar-laden pie? Turn those thoughts into challenges. Make list of new things to try. Maybe set your goal to try a slice of that pie, to allow yourself another piece of turkey, to play a card game after dinner instead of purging. Whatever you struggle with, dare yourself to beat it.

That being said, accept divergences from these plans. So you didn’t meet your goal that night? Use the experience to help you at the next party. By continually challenging yourself, you’re combatting your eating disorder. You’re taking away power from those cyclical thoughts that keep you trapped.

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  1. View treats exactly as that… TREATS!

You deserve to have fun. You deserve to enjoy food. Yes, you even deserve to eat cookies even if you’re stuffed from dinner. In the case of anorexia, your body might even NEED the extra calories. And pie is so much tastier than meal replacement drinks.

If you see desserts as a treat to yourself, it takes away the shame and guilt. Food doesn’t have the power to dictate your self-worth. It’s a chance to celebrate all the hard work you’ve done, even if it’s just for getting through another day. Christmas should be guilt-free.

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  1. Take a deep breath.

If you start to panic during a holiday event, don’t be afraid to take a breather. Remove yourself from the situation for a while. The holidays don’t have to full of stress and activity.

Plan something just for yourself. Take a walk, bake a cake, read a book… whatever it is, just do it for you. Have a “mental” holiday. Remind yourself it’s okay to eat “forbidden” food. It’s okay to get away from your routine. Doing something different is what the holidays are about.

And please, ignore those “holiday eating tips.” Eating a piece of pie doesn’t mean you need to run for an hour on the treadmill. Starving all day in order to ‘splurge’ at a party isn’t good for your body or your sanity. Depraving yourself of those delicious cookies Grandma baked isn’t going to guarantee you six-pack abs.

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So, don’t panic. The holidays will come and they will go. Embrace them. Beat those thoughts telling you that you aren’t good enough to eat that, that you don’t deserve that, that you shouldn’t do that.

Because you are worthy of every joy this holiday season, and all year round.

Fuel for Thought: What are the hardest things about the holidays? What do you think about articles that preach how to “survive the holidays” through increased workouts or avoiding certain foods? What are you looking forward to enjoying this year?

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Here are some additional resources for enjoying the holidays while recovering from an eating disorder:

“How to Keep Your Recovery Intact” CRCHealth.com

“Surviving the Holidays with an Eating Disorder” Eating Disorder Hope

“Thanksgiving Goodness Without the Guilt” NEDA

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2 thoughts on “Healing Through the Holidays

  1. Thank you for this! I’m kind of looking forward to my first Christmas in recovery (or closer than I’ve been in years and years) as a chance to challenge a lot of my old Ed rules!

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