Author: Justine Rickard M.A.
The holidays can be a time filled with joy, connections, traditions, and more. They can also be a difficult time of year for individuals working on recovery from eating disorders and disordered eating and for anyone working on their relationship with food and food freedom. From family or friend gatherings, more savoury and sweet food options that aren’t always available throughout the rest of the year, dressing up for events, there can be a lot of experiences the eating disorder feels challenged by. While Diet Culture and diet talk is prevalent all year long, having to navigate these harmful comments can be even more heightened over the holidays. Having a plan for how to deal with diet talk can be a helpful strategy for staying focused on your recovery needs and goals.
1. Set Boundaries. Setting boundaries with diet talk can take many different shapes depending on who and where these comments are coming from. The first option can be to use assertive communication to articulate the boundary. If unhelpful comments are coming from someone who is an active support in your recovery, try using “I” statements to let them know how hearing these comments negatively impact recovery and what would be most helpful (ex: “This might not be your intent, but when you say ________, I feel _______. Talking more neutrally about food would feel really supportive”). Boundary setting can also take the form of changing the subject when topics turn to something unhelpful, and physically removing yourself from the room, table, or conversation to take a breather and ground before coming back and joining or starting a new conversation. It can look like unfollowing or muting accounts on social media that promote Diet Culture, or limiting contact both in-person and online with people you know are more likely to be engaging in diet talk around the holidays.
2. Practice thought de-fusion. Defusing from unhelpful diet talk can be another in-the-moment strategy for when you notice the eating disorder latching onto something someone says or something posted online. Call out the ED and create some space between these thoughts by reminding yourself that thoughts are just thoughts, they are not facts. You can practice noticing and labeling the thoughts without buying into them.
3. Practice thought reframing. Challenge the ED thoughts and beliefs that have been activated in response to holiday diet talk by reframing them into more helpful, adaptive, and workable thoughts and beliefs. Challenging a thought can involve examining its legitimacy given the evidence, as well as examining how it would impact you if you were to buy into this thought as truth. Ask yourself, given the information I have, what would I say to a close friend who shared this thought with me or had a similar belief? Practice accessing and making space for your recovery voice in response to diet talk.
4. Incorporate regular self-care. This can include getting clear about your recovery goals and intentions for the holidays, following your meal plan, regular self-check-ins and grounding, journaling, self-compassion, connecting with your support team, and engaging in your values and with your recovery “why’s”.