There is so much pressure this time of year to feel merry and joyful. The thing is that the month, the day, or the time cannot vanish everything else that has been going on in life. There is this idealized concept that because we are in the holiday season, we must be happy. But life still happens. And if you’re living in your truth; if you are speaking your truth without judgement, then you’ll be honest about the fact that all the good and bad that occur in life are still there.
It’s important to change the emphasis from “we must be joyful during the holidays” to “this is a time to fill with gratitude.” As we move from a place of expectation to gratitude we release ourselves from the shame, guilt, and sadness that are created when we feel we aren’t meeting the expectations of us. Gratitude is scientifically proven to produce a more positive mood. Shame and guilt do not serve us in any positive way.
For people who struggle with eating disorders the holidays are often excruciatingly difficult, stressful, scary, and overwhelming.
Let’s talk about how to survive the holidays. It is important to prepare for holiday get togethers. Feeling like you have a plan and a safe space can help lessen the anxiety.
1. The first thing I would recommend anybody in any stage of recovery is to identify any possible triggers. Ask yourself questions like:
Does a certain family member trigger you?
What conversational topics are triggering?
What fear foods may be present?
Is there a specific time of day that is usually hardest for me?
2. Next collect all the coping skills you may be able to utilize into one list
A. What helps you when you are overthinking?
-Do you need to journal?
-Stream of consciousness?
-Call a supportive friend?
-Does drawing help?
B. What helps you when you are physically overstimulated?
- Can you go for a gentle walk? (only if medically safe)
- Deep breathing?
- Sit outside in the fresh air?
- Throw some cold water on your face.
C. What mantras help you re-align with your recovery goals?
- Mantras that bring things back to your values? Ie. “I value my relationships more than counting my calories.”
- Body Gratitudes? Ie. “I am grateful for my thighs because arms because they allow me to embrace myself and others.” Or “I am grateful for my mouth because it allows me to speak the needs of my soul.”
- Mantras that are grounding in your inner strength? Ie. “This is a hard moment but I get to choose me. I get to choose recovery.”
3. Identify Your “Emergency Contact” people
- Write a list of people you can contact if you need a little extra support. Think about who are the people in your life who are supportive of you and your recovery. Think of the people who make you feel heard and grounded.
- Now the most important part about this step is that you need to tell your “emergency contacts” that you may need to reach out for some more support during the holidays. (Remember it is okay to ask for help and support.)
- Make sure you talk with your emergency contacts about what might be helpful in really stressful moments. It may also be a good idea for you to talk to them about what you can do if you are at a holiday gathering and feel like you have reached capacity and are needing to take care of yourself by leaving the party.
4. If you have a nutritionist, plan your holiday meals together!
Meal plans will hold you accountable to your recovery.
- Having a meal plan set up especially for the time of gatherings is important. There is no need to ever restrict in order to have a nice holiday meal. You do not need to binge after enjoying a holiday meal. It is the same as any other meal, you allow it to nourish your body.
- Even though it is scary to stay aligned with recovery actions during the holidays, remember that it is worth it and there is no shame in feeding your body.
The Shame and Guilt:
There is a difference between shame and guilt. Guilt means you feel bad about an action. Shame means you feel you are bad. Shame is about self worth. Holidays often spark both.
When in recovery from an eating disorder it is so difficult to follow your meal plan day to day let alone during the holidays. Holidays often offer opportunity for many triggers. This could be family, environment, the abundance of food, etc. Its is important to remind yourself that you are allowed to eat, to fuel your body, and to enjoy it!
Sometimes family members make comments that are inaccurate and simply not their place to make.
If you get hit with a comment about your food or weight that makes you turn inward, that makes you feel shame, self hate, guilt for eating, or that dreaded “F” word (fat), remember these few things:
- You are worth more than the number on the scale. No matter what the state of your body, you are innately worthy, valuable, and beautiful.
- You could use your eating disorder behaviors to make you feel “better” about any comments made. That is a choice you get to make. But you have been using these behaviors for some time now, and they only make you feel worse in the long run. Maybe the answer doesn’t come by trying to manipulate your body, maybe the relief is learning to love and accept your body for what it is. If you keep doing what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always gotten. You’ve reacted to comments with behaviors before; try something different this time.
- Ask yourself what you really need right now. Under that “fat” feeling and behind the voice in your head that is beating you up- what is your soul needing? Are you needing comfort? To cry? To scream? A hug? A reminder of why you chose recovery in the first place? Now ask for it!
- This feeling doesn’t last forever. As somebody who has been in your shoes during my own recovery process, I can promise you that it passes. And when it passes, you will have the space to feel proud of yourself for choosing to honor your body and yourself as a whole.
- Take a deep breath, and let the feelings happen. The sadness, the anger, and whatever comes. When you become vulnerable and authentic about the hard feelings, the eating disorder has less power, it has less to hold over your head.
Goodluck this holiday season. And remember, I am here to help as well! I offer personal yoga therapy for eating disorders and recovery coaching! I believe in you, and I will hold enough faith for the both of us until the day comes when you truly believe in yourself as well!
You are strong
You are worthy
You are powerful
You are enough
You are beautiful
You are wonderfully you