Holidays and eating disorders are, unfortunately, a source of tremendous anxiety for many people. Whereas the holiday season is packed full of enjoyable events and traditions, many of them revolve around food, and this can be emotionally draining for someone who struggles to cope with an eating disorder. Furthermore, family members may experience difficulties with understanding the turmoil that someone with an eating disorder may be dealing with during the holidays, which can lead to further tension and strain. By mentally preparing yourself ahead of the holiday season, it is possible to fully enjoy and immerse yourself into the seasonal spirit in a healthy way – as well as learn healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
If you, or someone that you know, is feeling anxious about how to manage their eating disorder over the holiday season, then we at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY, can help.
Managing Eating Disorder Treatment During the Holidays
When you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, despite the fact that the holiday season still brings a lot of joy and excitement, it may also present challenges that need to be overcome. If you feel that holidays and eating disorders are something that you may struggle to cope with in the upcoming months, then the best thing to do is to be prepared. Establishing reasonable and realistic coping strategies will enable you to maintain progress, as well as still enjoy the holiday season.
- Be prepared – you are likely already aware of your own trigger foods and situations. If you know that there will be times when you will be confronted by these foods or situations, then you can work with your therapist or dietician in advance to understand how to maneuver the occasion in a way that works for you.
- Manage “fear foods” – an element of recovery is understanding that no foods are wholly good or bad, so it may be helpful to figure out a way of managing your “fear foods” effectively. You could arrange for a family member or close friend to be on hand to talk if you are struggling to manage disordered behaviors around food.
- Support system – consider making a list of family and friends that you can turn to when you’re confronted with your trigger foods. There are also a number of helplines and support services that you can turn to if you do not feel comfortable discussing the challenges that you are facing, especially if you feel that it might cause tension.
- Establish boundaries – if you suspect that your treatment or disordered behaviors might cause friction with family members during the holiday season, then you can prepare for this in advance by potentially role-playing scenarios with your therapist, close friends, or family members. Through this technique, you can learn how to establish and execute personal boundaries around what you feel comfortable discussing concerning food management or weight control.
- Reflect on your values – holidays and eating disorders are stressful to navigate, but it shouldn’t entirely take over from what is essentially supposed to be a time of togetherness and joy. Reflect on what the holidays mean to you, as well as take the time to enjoy your loved times.
- Practice self-care – remember to be passionate and considerate to yourself. Try to reduce negative self-talk and give yourself the grace and compassion that you deserve. Engage in activities that make you feel happy and connect with the people that you love.
Tips on Surviving the Holidays with an Eating Disorder
Each person’s experience with an eating disorder is individual, but the following is a guide which can help you to navigate the challenges of the holidays and eating disorders:
- Set up your support system in advance – whether this is a loved one or a helpline, it’s important to know where you can turn when you’re struggling to cope.
- Allow your support to guide you – they don’t have to control what you eat, but they can be an example of how it’s ok to eat certain foods. Eating disorders create feelings of anxiety around specific foods, so seeing someone else eat them normalizes it.
- Acknowledge that your eating disorder is lying to you – whether it’s about your diet, your body, or the people that you are with, your eating disorder is lying to you. Work with your treatment team in advance to learn the difference between healthy thoughts and maladaptive thoughts. You can also learn to challenge these thoughts through positive affirmations such as; “I am strong and I know that I can do this.”
- Avoid weight loss or exercise sites during these times – constant notifications or images from unrealistic sources may trigger anxiety during the holidays. Instead, fully immerse yourself in the moment with family and friends.
Remember to enjoy yourself this holiday season – holidays and eating disorders don’t always have to be a challenge. Praise yourself for what you have already achieved and remind yourself that you are strong enough to do it again. If you want to learn more about how to care for your mental health, or to learn about the mental health services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY, contact us at 518-218-1188.