If there’s one thing that’s collective across most holidays, it’s the food! People tend to eat bigger portions and higher calorie foods over the holidays, which can lead to the all-too-common holiday weight gain. But for someone who is in recovery for an eating disorder, the holidays may look very different.
Staying on track with your eating disorder recovery might seem impossible over the holidays, especially if you’re new to recovery and still learning coping skills. Not only will you be exposed to food-focused events, but also the stress that accompanies the holidays can also cause you to relapse.
People who are in recovery for an eating disorder often share that they have a lot of stress and anxiety around quantities of food, gaining weight or handling comments about weight. If you are feeling this stress as well, it’s important to get ahead of it so that you do not fall back into old habits.
Below are some tips for surviving the holidays when you’re in eating disorder recovery.
Lean on Your Support System
First and foremost, make sure that you stay closely connected to your support system during the holidays. This system can include anyone who supports your recovery, such as friends, family and members from your 12-step group. Share with them your concerns going into the holidays. Even if they can’t offer you any helpful tips, they can listen and let you know they are there for you.
Knowing that you have a great group of people supporting you will help you stay grounded in your recovery, plus hold you accountable for your actions. You can even invite these people to your holidays (if they’re not already coming) and sit by them at dinner. This will help ease some tension.
Know Your Boundaries
People who struggle with eating disorders often have mental health problems, too. If you do as well, it’s very likely that your anxiety or depression is kicking up right now. This is why you need to know your boundaries and be comfortable enforcing them. You’ve worked hard on your recovery, and you don’t need to risk this to meet someone else’s needs.
Some of the boundaries to set include:
- Which gatherings you’re going to
- When you’re arriving and leaving
- What conversations you partake in
- What information you share about your recovery
When you change your schedule, it’s easier to fall back into old habits. Even though the holidays have a tendency to change when and how much we eat, try to stick to your same eating schedule. Don’t skip meals, either. The purpose of eating on time and following your routine is to keep your energy up and prevent old patterns from settling in.
Also follow other aspects of your aftercare plan, such as getting enough rest at night, exercising and making time for yourself. Taking care of your mind and body makes you stronger and better able to tolerate the stress that comes with the holiday season.
Shift Your Focus
Be sure to spend time improving your mindset, whether that’s by writing in a journal, meditating, practicing yoga or saying positive affirmations. The holidays are not meant to be stressful, but somehow, we’ve made them this way. Remember the real meaning behind the holidays, and that’s spending time with friends and family.
Taking pressure off the food-aspect of things can help you enjoy the holiday more. Aside from the food, there are games to play, movies to watch, old photos to look through, stories to tell, gifts to open, memories to reminisce over and more.
Adjust Your Expectations
Having expectations is usually a direct ticket to being unhappy. That’s because when expectations are unmet, they can create feelings of depression, anxiety, inadequacy and hopelessness. However, it’s impossible for the human mind to operate without expectations! While you can’t get rid of expectations entirely, you can adjust them.
For example, if you know that your Aunt Debbie always criticizes your clothes, expecting her to change will only leave you upset and angry. The better approach is to change how you respond to Aunt Debbie. You can walk away, let her comment roll off your shoulders or simply say something like, “Thanks for your concern, but I love this sweater!”
Getting Support During the Holidays
As you get used to navigating the holidays in eating disorder recovery, things will come easier to you. You’ll get more comfortable handling stressful situations and be able to bounce back quicker. For now, put your recovery first, keep yourself busy with non-food-related things and stay close to your support network.
Breathe Life Healing Centers treats eating disorders of all types and severities. If you or a loved one needs support and healing, contact us at any time – even over the holidays! We have experience working with bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder and many others.