“Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year”
It’s that time of year again, where most people are busy planning all of the festive parties they will be attending, drinks nights, work parties and the ultimate family get together over a big Christmas lunch. For most this is what Christmas is all about, this is what we wait for all year. But for someone suffering with an eating disorder this is the most difficult time of the year.
I’m lucky, for the first time in 10 years I can fit back in to the majority, I’m looking forward to my work Christmas party and all the family time that is fast approaching but until now it’s been a very different story.
I’m writing this, not to look at how far I have come but to offer support, understanding and advice to everyone I know (and don’t know) who will be dreading this time of year like I was.
For someone in the grips of an eating disorder or someone who is on the road to recovery or even those who consider themselves recovered Christmas is still a big deal. Although an AMAZING time of the year it is still hard. For me it’s an emotional time on different levels, I get emotional thinking about how lucky I am to be here and appreciating my amazing family. I get emotional thinking about all of the wasted Christmases where I have just dreaded the lead up and been a panicky mess on the day through to the deep regret and guilt of ruining the day for the ones I love. Christmas is a big deal and can and will trigger anxieties around food and drink but what you need to remember is that it is just one day.
Christmas is an occasion to spend time with family and friends and yes there happens to be lots of food around but treat this as a normal day. You still need to give yourself permission to eat just like recovery teaches you. Looking back over past Christmases I can see that my anxieties around the day and the lead up were bigger than the food itself. The more I thought about what I would and wouldn’t eat the bigger the food became. My downfall was the amount I was catastrophizing every situation.
Sometimes it is easier to keep your feelings to yourself and struggle through the day so that other people don’t worry about you and you are not a burden on others but from experience your family will know that you are struggling and they are there to help you and talk about it. You shouldn’t have to go through it alone.
I’m no expert and I’m not a qualified professional but from personal experience I want to share my tips for surviving the Christmas period with an eating disorder.
1. Reassure yourself that it is ok, you are allowed to enjoy yourself and you are allowed to eat.
2. Spend time with your family and get involved with what’s happening around you. It may be difficult but try not to distance yourself. Feeling like an outsider looking in will increase the negative feelings.
3. Talk talk talk. Talk about your anxieties, tell your family how you are feeling and inform them on how they can help make the day easier for you.
4. Remind yourself it is just a normal day
5. Have a meal plan that you have made before the big day, that way you won’t be faced with decisions that heighten your anxiety.
6. Play games and take your mind off the negativity
7. Remember that this isn’t really about food, remember to look deeper at what is really going on. Try to journal and explore where the feelings are coming from and what the thoughts of food are actually distracting you from
If you are reading this because you want to support a loved one with an eating disorder then please remember…
1. It’s not their fault and there is no blame
2. Be supportive and encouraging but do not watch their every move
3. Don’t make unnecessary comments over food or monitor the amount that they are eating
4. Never make someone feel as if they are letting you down or being difficult
5. Help take their mind off things with conversations that are not focused on food
6. Don’t talk about how much you have eaten or that you feel ‘fat’. These kinds of comments make it very hard for a sufferer to eat the foods they consider bad
Remember, this can be just as hard for you as it is for someone suffering with an eating disorder. It can be frustrating and upsetting but the most you can do is be supportive and let your loved one know you are there without coming across as the food police!
Christmas is a family time, don’t let your eating disorder take away anymore valuable time, it’s taken enough.