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13 Eating Disorder Recovery Strategies for the Holidays


Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

Holidays. Pretty lights all around. Familiar sights and smells. Family. 

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it’s there, in your face, all the time. Every store. Every advertisement. You can’t escape it. For some, it is a beautiful time of year. For others, it is the epitome of hell.

Whatever you celebrate throughout the year, I’m sure you can relate to family gatherings, work parties, and getting together with friends. It is joyous and exhausting. It is full of expectations and obligations. Warmth and love. Stress and anxiety
, all wrapped up with a big bow made of good and bad memories.

I reached out to the Toronto, Canada eating disorder community and asked for some strategies to stay safe, well and on-track this season.

Here are some of their ideas:

1. “I made myself a small soothing package I keep in my purse. It has a fidget toy, a special tiny stone I can hold without being noticed, and a fragrance I can sniff when I excuse myself to go to the bathroom.”

2. “I carry a self-care kit with me wherever I go. Then, all my things that calm me are in one place.”

3. “I wear a bracelet my Gramma gave me when I was 16. When I put it on, I feel safe.”

4. “There’s a couple of good friends who understand me. We text each other when we need support.”

5. “Using my dog as an excuse to leave early is awesome. He needs to be walked so I have a limited amount of time to give.”

6.Boundaries boundaries boundaries. Set them. Keep them. Allow them to make you safe.”

7. “If you need to leave, then leave. Who’s going to stop you? Go outside for a few minutes. Go for a walk. Offer to go on a coffee run. Your well-being matters more than anything else.”

9. “Bring a buffer. Bring a person who can run interference. If you have a family member you trust, tell them your triggers and ask them to prepare to change the subject if needed.”

10. “Offer to take the small children into another room to take care of them. Then you’re awesome and no one knows it’s your way of bailing.”

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

11. “Don’t go? Just joking. I go prepared with broken record phrases like: “I’m not comfortable talking about that.” “Enough about me, how are things with you?” “Hold that thought, I’ll be right back.”

12. “Stick to your routine. Plan ahead, but also be flexible. Participating in something you enjoy for one day, or even at each gathering, doesn’t mean you aren’t in recovery. The work is not letting guilt and shame crush you for doing what everyone else is doing. It’s OK to celebrate sometimes, you know.”

13. “If you’ve participated in more than you had planned or in more than feels comfortable, do not change your routine to overcompensate. Our brains lie to us. The rest of the world goes ‘oh no, I can’t believe I did that,’ and minutes later moves on. Tell your brain to shut up and get right back to your routine.”

I think it is important to remember the holidays are meant to be joyful. They are meant to make you feel loved, welcomed and that you belong. Your eating disorder will tell you that you are unworthy and unlovable. It is lying. It’s a liar. Tell that thought, “I hear you but I know I’m enough.” Surround yourself with people and experiences that bring you joy. If family obligations do not offer you that, make a point of finding that in yourself.

Above all else, remind yourself: You are not your eating disorder. Recovery is not linear. Every moment is an opportunity to stop and reset. You are worth recovery, so reset and keep going.

Take care of yourself, and remember to nourish your mind, body, and spirit.

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