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How I’m Staying in Eating Disorder Recovery This Holiday Season

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Holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Eve can be tough for eating disorder survivors. I consider myself “in recovery,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy. I was first diagnosed in 2014 and have off and on dealt with eating disorders since that time.

I have written in another article my main coping skills that help me stay in eating disorder recovery. These same tips apply—and more (it is also important to note that these tips apply outside of the holiday season)!

1. Naming Your Eating Disorder 

Naming my eating disorder has helped me separate myself from it. I am not “anorexic” or “bulimic” but rather I have struggled with eating disorders. I am not my illness, but rather I am overcoming it every single day. I find it helpful to write letters to “Ed” (and his friends like “Oscar” and “Derrick”—my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression!) in order to get my feelings and urges out without acting upon them.

2. Imagery and Visualizations 

I recently started therapy with a new therapist who has suggested that I get into imagery and visualizations as a means of coping with trauma and subsequent self-harm and eating disorder urges. What exactly do I mean by this? I have created a “safe space” that only I can enter in my mind. This does take a bit of effort in terms of imagination, so I know this might not be for everyone, but so far it is helping me. My safe space is elaborate, filled with dogs and books and things that bring me comfort. The walls are colorful and there is a pool—and more! However, if you were to create a safe space, it could look completely different. It doesn’t even have to be a room; it could be another planet! Now each time I get triggered into wanting to engage in my eating disorder or self-harm, I bring myself to this imagery within my mind.

3. Positive Affirmations

I have a word document in which I am, as also requested by my therapist, writing three things I like about myself daily. Some examples: I am creative. I am brave. I am kind. I am a dedicated dog parent. I am intelligent. I am open-minded. It is very effective to remind myself that I have worth, and so I do not deserve to struggle with an eating disorder. I deserve to cope in healthy ways. As do you!

4. Staying Off the Scale 

Enough said! This is easier said than done of course, but it certainly remains true for me that staying off the scale is beneficial to my overall mood and well-being. I have a doctor tracking my weight for health reasons, but I request to not see the number.

5. Writing Your List of Reasons for Staying in Recovery 

I have so many reasons to be in recovery, as do you! This includes wanting to experience a happy and healthy future, realizing that I deserve wellness, and my desire to be an advocate to others who are struggling with similar challenges!

6. Having a Support Network/Accountability 

This can include family, friends and/or a dietician and therapist. Having a person or group of people in your corner is essential I’ve found. And if you’re feeling isolated and currently can’t be in therapy, then I suggest starting here with The Mighty, where you may be able to connect with others who have similar struggles with disordered eating, mental health and chronic illnesses.

7. Holiday Activities That Are Not Triggering

Can you think of at least one fun and safe activity that you’d like to do this holiday season? Perhaps you can build a snowman or do an arts and craft activity related to the season. Or maybe you’ll decide to go to a winter festival or zoo lights (when the zoo puts up holiday lights at night). If you have relatives visiting from out of town, perhaps you can go to a museum together. Lastly, if you’re a fan of the holiday classics, there are plenty of movies to watch!

If you’re reading this, most likely you struggle(d) with an eating disorder or are close to someone who does/has. I hope that you have a happy winter and also accept that it’s OK to have down moments too; what’s most important is what you do to manage those hard moments. I believe in you, just as I am working on believing in me!

Getty image by Mkovalevskaya

Originally published: December 20, 2021
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