Written by Sophie Smith
- Self-compassion is key
Remember that the holiday season can often be difficult for people, especially those experiencing eating disorders. It is essential that you are compassionate with yourself and allow yourself to feel however you are feeling. Stress, worry, sadness, frustration – these are all normal things to be experiencing at this time.
- Set boundaries
Some of us have families who understand eating disorders and are open to anti-diet ideas, but others unfortunately aren’t afforded this privilege. If you anticipate that your family and/or friends may pose a threat to your recovery because of their beliefs and attitudes around food, exercise, weight, shape and health, the best step you can take is to set boundaries so that your interactions with them are not triggering or harmful to you. With friends, it is completely ok to temporarily hold certain people at arm’s length to protect your recovery.
- Plan ahead to manage triggers
Think about what things you may find triggering over the holiday season and see if you can (preferably with the help of a professional) plan ahead to manage anything that may trigger you.
- Have a support person
Try to have at least one person who can support you over the holiday season. Your support person should be someone you can talk to about your feelings and experiences who will listen to you, validate your experiences and help you get through this time.
- Don’t restrict or compensate for holiday meals
I know it can be really tempting, especially if you’re new to eating disorder recovery, but try to not restrict before big ‘occasion’ meals or compensate for them afterwards. These patterns only serve to reinforce your eating disorder thoughts and behaviours, so try to avoid them if you can.
- Normalise fullness
Contrary to what diet culture has us believe, feeling full is not a sign of failure. Fullness, especially after a big holiday meal or event, is entirely normal and expected. I know it can send you into a big panic spiral but being full after a meal doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to gain weight. It likely just means that your body will regulate your appetite accordingly and you may be less hungry the next day. Remember that eating simply for pleasure is 100% ok. So, if you want an extra bite of a super tasty Christmas food but know you’ll probably be full afterwards, you have my full and unconditional permission go ahead and have that bite.
- Set recovery goals (if you feel able to)
If you feel like you’re in a position to do so, set some recovery-related goals for the holidays. These could be to do with fear foods, exercise challenges or anything else you feel able to work on. If you don’t feel able to challenge yourself over the holidays, that is also completely ok. Maintaining your progress in recovery is just as valuable as taking a further step. Remember – it’s not a race!