Surviving Holidays with an Eating Disorder
Surviving holidays with an eating disorder can feel like making friends in middle school. It’s HARD. I’m going to share with you eating disorder holiday tips to better prepare you for Thanksgiving, Christmas or whatever holidays you celebrate.
Here’s the thing: you get to decide where you give your energy and attention this holiday season. Do you want to focus on food and being all consumed or do you want to focus on your blessings, having fun and connections with others? Research tells us that where you give your energy and time, you will feel in abundance.
I can think of many Thanksgivings while I was battling an eating disorder, but two come to mind because they were night and day from one another. I wish I had these eating disorder holiday tips for the first Thanksgiving. My memory is foggy on that one because I was so consumed with how I looked, what I was eating and what others thought of me. During the meal, I was so overwhelmed with the food that I don’t remember a lick of the conversation. I put on a “happy” face, only to go home alone and have behaviors. I woke up the next morning feeling awful and like I had no chance at surviving holidays with an eating disorder.
Fast forward to another Thanksgiving while I was in recovery. It wasn’t nearly as challenging as last time AND I found some of it was actually enjoyable. Here’s what I did.
Eating Disorder Holiday Tips
First, I was open and honest with most of my family before we got together that day. I told them it was hard to be present during a holiday that revolves around food. I asked if they could help guide the conversation away from food, exercising, dieting or being ‘too full’. In fact, this is where one of our family traditions was born of going around the table and saying what you were most thankful for that year.
Second, I prepared before I went to Thanksgiving day by doing two things. I ate a snack and I took five deep breaths in and out through my nose. The last thing I wanted was to be obsessing over food and my body. I wanted to be present, so I prepared before I went by filling my tummy and calming my mind.
Of all the eating disorder holiday tips, this is my favorite and most powerful. The third thing I did to minimize anxiety was choosing where to shift my focus. My sister had just given birth to a baby boy a couple months prior to this Thanksgiving. I asked her if I could take care of him during the day – feed him, change him and hold him. Giving my energy to something outside of myself was magical.
Finally, I had a plan for when Thanksgiving was ‘over’. This was absolutely key to surviving holidays with an eating disorder. I asked my mom if I could stay the night at her house and if we could play a game after everyone left. After the game, I made myself tea, watched a show and went to sleep. I PLANNED for the AFTER. I knew I might be uncomfortable physically after meal time (if you anticipate this, you might read: 3 Tips to Sitting With Fullness) and I didn’t want to leave my plans up to chance.
I hope these eating disorder holiday tips give some hope for this Thanksgiving. Come up with a game plan before the holidays, before a triggering event or a particular day you have anxiety over. Planning for it – before it starts and after it is over – can provide certainty, clarity and lead to not only surviving holidays with an eating disorder, but also enjoying the holidays.