Christmas is more than just food. So let’s turn the focus on love and the quality time spent with Family and Friends instead. Christmas is approaching us, rapidly, with only a few weeks to go until the Festive season. And, although this is incredibly exciting, it can also be extremely difficult for people with Eating Disorders.
Living with Anorexia is debilitating and it’s an endless battle with your mind, clouded with negative thoughts and difficult days. I talk about Anorexia because of my, ongoing, person experience with it. All eating disorders are severe, every eating disorder sufferer struggles and their struggles are valid and need to be listened to.
Every day the thoughts become about numbers. The number of calories and the number on the scales, never mind the guilt surrounding food. A huge portion of my daily life is spent worrying over food. I would like to highlight the fact that even during the festive season our illnesses don’t automatically turn off. Though, that’d be incredible – Anorexia sufferers suffer all year round.
I find the Christmas period to be very difficult, due to the focus on food. It always seems that every left, right and centre people are opening selection boxes or choosing which box of chocolates to open first. Even the build up to Christmas is a stressful time, with Supermarkets filling the shelves with festive treats and Christmas cooking programmes taking up lots of the channels on tv. Everything goes out of my usual routine and my comfort zone, so I like to normalise things as much as possible. The focus on food is very overwhelming and can cause me a great deal of anxiety, that added onto the daily anxieties I face with my ongoing Anorexia battle. I have survived many Christmas’s with my Anorexia; the yearly build up doesn’t become any easier and I worry every year about the unknown and what is next to come.
I must add, I have a very supportive family who do their best to ease my anxieties surrounding the Festive period which helps, but unfortunately, doesn’t magically make everything go away completely for me. I recommend that the people involved in your Christmas celebrations are aware of your Eating Disorder, that way, it’ll lessen the initial ‘awkwardness’ and will help to ease the anxieties a little. It’ll also help people to gain an insight into why you may not feel able to eat things that are handed to you.
I guess Christmas for me feels like someone with Arachnophobia being placed in a room full of Spiders. The focus would, quite clearly, be on the Spiders and the immediate reaction would be to try and escape the room. This situation would bring lots of unwanted agitation and worry. I feel the same when surrounded with food. The talk conversation of food and the smells of food becomes difficult to cope with.
My fears of food may seem silly to some, but this is something I have to live with each day so being respectful and understanding of this is very important. Saying ‘it’s Christmas!’ doesn’t make it any easier for me to grab a piece of chocolate and eat it. It still brings the same levels of guilt and high anxiety levels as every normal day in the year.
Please be considerate to those suffering with an Eating Disorder at Christmas. Understand that it’s not as easy as ‘just eating’ and it isn’t easy to just take a chocolate from the box and eating it. Be aware that people with an ED will struggle during Christmas, but it isn’t intentional, it’s an illness of the mind that (unfortunately) doesn’t rest. Don’t make food the main focus of the day, instead, bring up other topics of conversation, provide distractions and lots of love and hugs to those struggling.
Despite the fact that everybody may not be able to enjoy Christmas (due to the food) Christmas can definitely be enjoyed for many other reasons. Including: cuddling up on the sofa watching Christmas movies, filling the house with Christmas decorations and the fun of giving and receiving presents. I find that distractions are a necessity to have (always) especially during the Christmas period. Planning meals can also be useful as it reduces the anxiety around food. Ie: knowing I’ll have a ‘safe food’ as opposed to an overwhelming Christmas Dinner which would do nothing other than leave me in floods of tears.
Christmas is one day, despite things seeming crazy and out of routine, it’ll soon be another day survived and a day where you can prove to yourself just how strong and capable you are. ❤
Lots of love,