Christmas means different things to different people; it may be a prized opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends. It may be a time of parties and celebrations. For people coping with an eating disorder it can be a challenging and stressful time. There are anxieties around under eating or over eating, being surrounded by food and needing to eat with others; in addition to all the usual Christmas stressors. How to cope?
Take a look in your diary and identify whether there are any meals or events in the diary which might be potentially risky around food/eating. Have a plan in mind for coping with those risky times. Some helpful strategies could include pre arranging support from a phone buddy, taking a coping card with you or limiting the time you spend at a meal or event.
Be vigilant for the ED mindset over the Christmas period. There can be a lot of food and drink around at Christmas. Food is not the enemy; no food is “bad” in itself if eaten in moderation. Stay structured with the timing of your meals/snacks and plan ahead if you can. Remember the mantra: Food as fuel, Food as medicine, Food as nutrition. Choose to self-care by eating nourishing foods.
You can spot the food and drink “pushers” during the festive season – those people at social events who may push you to have more on your plate than you want to or who will put a glass of alcohol in your hand. You can be assertive with them and you don’t have to people please.
It’s the season of the party dress and social occasions. Be alert for body checking of you or of others. Are you having thoughts that other people look slimmer than you? Are you engaging in self-deprecatory self-talk? You can choose to be self-compassionate.
Be vigilant and avoid getting drawn into conversations around the buffet table about food, dieting or shape/weight issues. You can choose to steer the conversation around to a more helpful subject if you want to or you could even go off and mingle with different people.
If you experience challenges or setbacks over Christmas/New Year you can succumb to ED as a way of coping………….. or you can choose a more helpful action. Moods can change on a daily basis and feelings come and go. Journal how you are feeling. Try and identify what you are feeling and why. Write it all down. Are you lonely, sad, guilty or angry? Ask yourself: What would be the most loving thing I could do for myself right now? Would it be helpful to distract yourself by reading a book or to take a walk? Are you tired and need to rest? You could centre yourself by doing a breathing exercise and by repeating your affirmations. You could remind yourself of all the reasons why life would be so much better without ED and that each time you say No to the ED mindset and behaviours you are saying YES to your wellbeing and recovery.
Amidst the busyness of Christmas my wish for you is that you are able to seek out some time just for you – some peace, the chance to recharge and for you to experience the magic of Christmas.