The holiday season is a wonderful and magical time that can often be equally as stressful. For many, the stress of being in containment with certain relatives for long periods of time is quickly alleviated by the thought of the secret family recipe they bring to the table. But for those suffering or recovering from an eating disorder, the cornucopia of food that feeds the holiday season only adds another helping of stress to their plates.
For those who are overcoming disordered eating, the holidays bring more challenges than varieties of Christmas cookies, but they are NOT insurmountable. When food is front and center for what seems like a never-ending season, those confronted with extra calories and extra tensions struggle against retreating into former patterns of restriction, purging, and extreme anxiety.
Individuals recovering from anorexia nervosa will likely experience quite a bit of anxiety over the quantity of rich and indulgent food which they typically restrict themselves from eating. For those with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, the day is filled with persistent temptation to overindulge. These temptations can often lead to loss of control and subsequent feelings of shame or guilt.
To overcome all of these temptations and anxieties, a game plan must be prepared to make it through the twilight zone looming between the candy craze of Halloween and the midnight suppers of New Year’s Eve. Here are four tips on how to survive the holidays with an eating disorder:
- Plan ahead. More planning equals less stress and anxiousness about eating. Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day and eat regularly scheduled meals before a party so you don’t show up overly hungry and irritable. Think about where and what foods will be available, portions, and how to stop eating when it’s time. In some cases, skipping an event altogether to avoid temptation or stress may be the safest option.
- Have a support system. Positive support from a trusted someone can reduce likeliness to eat in an unhealthy way. Before the holiday chaos ensues, enlist a confidant who will be around. Suggest that they assume the role of plate monitor, don’t allow any disappearances to the bathroom, and deflect comments from oblivious or overly concerned relatives.
- Stay in touch with your registered dietitian nutritionist, therapist, and doctor. Talking to them about food concerns is a healthy way to cope with holiday pressure. If travel demands mean missing an appointment, be sure to stay connected by phone or email. Accountability is the key to success.
- Shift the focus onto people and relationships rather than food. Think of parties and meals as opportunities to connect with others instead of fixate on food. The holiday season is a great time to enjoy relationships with loved ones, be thankful for blessings received, and to give back through loving service to others. These practices will help properly feed your soul, as well as your body.
Slowing down, soaking in the love of the season, and celebrating accomplishments of another year past can be an encouragement to pursue health and wellness in the upcoming year. Not only can these practices inspire a New Year’s resolution, but they also relieve stress and provide comfort in the current season. Even if all of this is easier said than done, the important thing to remember is that it can be done. And with persistence and support, it will be done.
Happy Holidays from AB Nutrition Solutions!