Mental Health

Managing an Eating Disorder at Christmas

Christmas is the most joyful time of the year. With otherwise dull streets covered accordingly in festive decorations and colourful, dazzling lights.

Radio stations quickly transition to a never-ending loop of past and present festive hits, ranging from number ones from Elton John and Mariah Carey. People begin crowding supermarkets as though they’ll never open again as they hurriedly buy festive treats and gifts to please family members, and friends.

However, with an Eating Disorder, coping with Christmas can be a difficult challenge.

I find the run up to Christmas in general quite daunting, admittedly. But have ensured to surround myself with family and friends and have engaged in festive activities, such as visiting Christmas markets, to issue myself with a non-disordered focus.

You’re surrounded with food, everywhere you go and the anxieties surrounding breaking an otherwise structured routine run high. I believe that although Christmas is tough, it serves as a helpful mechanism to witnessing other people’s freedom surrounding food and rituals, the worry over spontaneously eating a chocolate bar from a selection box or grabbing a candy cane from the tree.

It gives me hope that there is freedom waiting for me beyond my Eating Disorder.

Christmas is tricky. But logically, it’s one day. Another day you can survive! And the focus doesn’t have to be solely on food as it’s just one component of the day, but more so, spending quality time with your loved ones and focusing on the reasons why you’re thankful.

I’ve survived through many Christmases whilst in Anorexia recovery and within the depths of my Eating Disorder and I believe everybody else has the strength to do the same. I wanted to share some (hopefully helpful) tips for getting through the holidays!

Disclaimer: I’m NOT a medical professional. I’m just a Student with ongoing experiences with Anorexia. So, please seek appropriate medical advice if you need to.

1) Stick to your meal plan.

Of course, there’s variation in this. It’s important to do whatever is the best for you. If you want to be spontaneous, go ahead. But ensure that you have appropriate measures in place to care for yourself afterwards.

Meal plans serve the purpose of ensuring that you’re eating enough and fuelling your body accordingly throughout the day. They also help to reduce the anxieties surrounding timings, which can be incredibly beneficial on days like Christmas when things are often unorganised and busy.

If you need to do so, I recommend setting reminders or sharing your plan with a close family member as a means of support if/when matters become overwhelming.

2) Speak to a family member.

Eating Disorders are tough to manage alone, particularly when the expectation to be happy stands. I believe that speaking to family members (or anybody you’re spending the day with) is very helpful, as it enables them to understand why you’re struggling which means measures can be put into place to keep you happy and well.

This can also ease the anxieties surrounding the day, whilst making you more comfortable. It’s always useful to have an understanding person to turn to.

Also, I would advise to speak to them to encourage them to avoid triggers. Every individual has personal triggers, but usually comments on food and the typical “I’m going to diet in the New Year” are unhelpful. Again, don’t feel bad for doing this – It’s an aspect of self care, and that’s never selfish.

3) Distractions!

Distractions are the key to managing overwhelming and crippling thoughts. They issue you with a creative focus and aim to draw less attention to the eating disorder thoughts. This can range from spending time alone (If you’re safe to do so!) or doing something active, like playing a board game with the family, or simply watching a film you enjoy.

Anything that keeps your mind occupied and offers you an alternative focus.

4) Helplines.

Charities (such as BEAT) provide confidential, free helplines on Christmas Day, should you require professional support/advice in the absence of your Therapist. If you require a moment to sit somewhere quiet so speak to somebody, there’s absolutely no shame in doing so.

Remember that you’re strong, capable and brave.

You’ve survived every obstacle up until this point. And you can definitely survive this one too!

But also, don’t feel bad for struggling. It’s all a part of the journey. And it’s okay not to be okay.

Lots of love,

Laur xx

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