Christmas can be TOUGH when you have an eating disorder…Firstly, summer in Australia means sun, surf and swimmers. So suddenly skin is exposed, which can be disconcerting when you are plagued with body shame. Furthermore, if changes in body size have occurred, this increased visibility attracts attention. This is usually unhelpful because it often results in unwelcome comments, particularly by the people we only really see at Christmas time.
Secondly, for most, Christmas is synonymous with eating…everything from Christmas parties to Christmas dinner itself revolves around food. Given that most people with eating disorders are fearful of food and social eating this can be terrifying. It might mean increased availability of food, resulting in increased risk of binge-eating. It might also mean public exposure and shaming about how unusual ones variety, portion size or frequency of eating practices have become.
Finally, Christmas can be stressful as therapists often take extended leave over Christmas and January. This is amplified by the additional aforementioned pressure that this season brings, as well as the removal of distraction or structure that “business as usual” provides. So what are our tips on how to survive?
7 Things to do to make it through Christmas
1. If you are undertaking therapy, start talking to your therapist as soon as possible about the anxieties the ‘silly season” brings for you.
2. Make things as easy as possible by planning. What friends will be around? Are there any family members you can confide to about any worries you might have? Consider constructing a plan for getting through some of the more difficult meals or situations. Have some pleasant activities planned that you can look forward to.
3. Have a crisis plan. What will you do if you encounter a challenge that feels impossible to negotiate? How can you get back on track? The Butterfly Foundation (1800 334 673) and Lifeline (13 11 14) are places you can contact for support.
4. Review treatment over past year. What has worked for you? Are there any specific strategies you can employ over the Christmas break? What hasn’t worked for you?
5. Contemplate your treatment goals for the following year (not New Year’s resolutions). How would you like things to be different next Christmas? What steps can you take now to start working towards that?
6. What challenges does the Christmas period afford you that will be helpful in your recovery? Trying different foods? Wearing different clothes in public? Practicing relaxation or mindfulness? Engaging in an activity you enjoy?
7. Engage in self care. Do at least one thing that you enjoy every day.