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5 Tips for Surviving Christmas With an Eating Disorder

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Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year (mostly).

I do love Christmas. I love spending time with my nearest and dearest, shopping for and exchanging gifts, getting to relax, decorating the house and listening to Christmas music.

Then, there’s the subject of food, one of the things Christmas is centered around: indulgence.

Christmas dinners out. Advent calendars. Christmas Day dinner. Abundances of chocolate. Then, afterward, comes the dreaded “diet season.”

For many people, these things aren’t really given a second thought. It’s just what you do, right? That’s just Christmas.

Dealing with an eating disorder at this time of year is a different story. From the outside, it might look like we’re fine and coping, but on the inside, well, it can be chaos.

Christmas dinners out with friends/colleagues bring about those agonizing arguments in your head: Will I be able to go to a restaurant or will I have a panic attack the minute I walk in? You find the menu online so you can inspect it beforehand and be prepared for where you’re going. You try not to panic or cry as you have to eat in front of other people. Then, there’s anxiety for days beforehand about where you’ll be seated: Will I be facing people? Will I be too close to another table? Will the whole restaurant be able to see me?

Chocolate and sweets are everywhere! Advent calendars and boxes of sweets constantly being offered around or gifted to you. You are expected to take one because “it’s Christmas.” You’re anxious if you take one, and you’re anxious if you don’t. It’s a no-win situation.

Christmas Day dinner is being thought about weeks, maybe even months in advance. It needs to be prepared for. You need to know what you’re having so you’re not thrown at the last minute. You need to think about portions. Then, there’s the old “eating in front of people torture” again. You might even be following a meal plan and have to plan your dinner around that or eat different things at a different time.

Almost instantly, there’s the diet chat. The day after Christmas diet. DVD’s, gym adverts and fitness equipment are plastered all over the TV and billboards. All these things are triggering. They reinforce the voice that we’re trying to escape. The voice that says having an extra sweet or a little more dinner is “cheating” and that we need to exercise because we ate.

It’s a hard time of year for those struggling and in recovery from eating disorders. We want to enjoy it, and we really don’t want to feel like we’re ruining the day for everyone else.

Here’s some things I find helpful during this time of year:

1. Don’t force yourself to go out for meals if you don’t feel like you can.

It’s never fun to feel like you’re missing out, but if it’s going to set you back, then it’s not worth it. Your mental health and recovery come first.

2. Make a playlist with soothing/relaxing music.

If things are getting overwhelming, then stick your headphones on and relax for a little bit.

3. Breathe!

Practice mindful breathing. It’s something you can do anywhere, and it really does make a difference.

4. Ask for help.

Yes, that’s a scary one, but you should have someone you can be honest with if you’re struggling or even someone you can text. Having support is important.

5. Have alone time.

If things are too much, then go out for a short walk or even escape to the bathroom for a bit. Breathe. Repeat some helpful mantras or talk to yourself. Destroy the thoughts, not your body. Be kind to yourself! Don’t feel guilty if you’re struggling or having bad thoughts, but don’t act on them. I highly recommend the Rise Up + Recover app. You can write down how you’re feeling and get the thoughts out your head.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 7, 2016
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