The holidays are a wonderful time to connect with friends and family, enjoy a variety of delicious foods, and have fun at parties. If you are in recovery, or are struggling with an eating disorder, these experiences can bring an equal amount of joy and distress. Having to dress up, being around holiday food, and spending time with family members you may not have seen for awhile can be very overwhelming and take away from the enjoyment of the holiday season. Here are some tips for navigating the different situations that can come up when you are celebrating Christmas time.
SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR YOURSELF. If at all possible, have a conversation with your loved ones around how you are feeling about the holidays and how they can best support you. Let them know that the holidays can be tough, and that it is not realistic for you to try every type of food, attend every event, or be a social butterfly with family. Set boundaries with food and body talk, especially around the dinner table. Ask for support and accountability, and let them know that pressuring you is not helpful. By being open with others you can rally them to aid you in your efforts against the eating disorder.
RECOGNIZE WHEN YOU’VE HAD ENOUGH. Everyone wants to celebrate the holidays, and there can be a lot going on in the weeks leading up to, and during, Christmas. You may feel pressure to go to every party, potluck, or get-together, even when it does not feel right for you. Being social can have its benefits, however it's important to check in with yourself and ask if you are doing too much. If you notice that you are getting tired, irritable, and overwhelmed, remember that you have the right to say "no" to invites if doing so is in your best interest.
FOCUS ON THE EXPERIENCE, NOT APPEARANCE. There can be a lot of emphasis on dressing up and looking your best at Christmas parties, and oftentimes this calls up negative self-talk around body, appearance, and comparison with others. A great way to combat this is to focus on the experience of the event – the connections you will make with others, fun games you might play, the decorations and ambiance of the venue, etc. Choosing to be present replaces the importance of how you look with an appreciation for the moment.
BE MINDFUL OF ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION. Enjoying drinks can be a fun part of the holiday season. However, it's important to recognize how being disinhibited affects your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Notice when you have had enough, and set boundaries with how much you drink so as to decrease your vulnerability to the eating disorder.
EMBRACE ASSERTIVENESS. One of the joys of the holidays is seeing family members from far away and reconnecting with those you may have lost touch with. One of the tribulations is dealing with family members who may not understand the eating disorder or your recovery process. Being assertive when inappropriate comments or questions are voiced is a powerful tool for recovery. Remember that you get to choose what information you share with whom – no-one is entitled to know details you are not comfortable with. Excuse yourself from the conversation, change the topic, or invite them to have a one-on-one conversation at a coffee shop if they really want to know more.
FOCUS ON WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU AND YOUR RECOVERY. Remember that recovery does not get time off, even during the holidays. Regardless of what is going on and who is around, you have the right to choose recovery each and every day. Saying "no", declining seconds, removing yourself from toxic conversations, are all actions that you may need to take to protect yourself in your recovery. You have the right to make positive choices for yourself!