by Carol Fredrek
An eating disorder is a struggle any time of the year, but the holidays are particularly challenging.
The holiday season is a difficult time for many people, in particular for those that have challenges with food, body, and weight issues. Holiday celebrations often involve social gatherings, family events, and random encounters with food.
The random encounters with food are often at work, stores we wander into, banks, and many more places. Chocolates, candies, cookies, and those scary appetizers seem so insatiable; causing immense anxiety.
People often get together with family, which can be a trigger for some. Pressure to eat or comments about weight can be overwhelming. So can the family dynamics that may get triggered.
The “shoulds” are huge. The “good” and “bad” labels are rampant in your mind. However, there are a number of things that you can do to avoid this trap.
7 Ways to Minimize the Impact
1. Eat what you are comfortable with prior to going to an event
It is important to acknowledge that this is a difficult time for you. You don’t have to explain to anyone that you don’t want to. It can be as simple as “I am not feeling well today”.
2. Challenge the negative self-talk
This is when knowing your cognitive distortions is important. Pull out that Cognitive Behavior Therapy handout. It can be really helpful to you now. If you don’t have one, but would like one, just contact me through email to get one.
3. Set Boundaries
If you aren’t comfortable going, then don’t go. Sometimes that is not so easy to do. I suggest trying all of the strategies that you have learned to help you through the anticipatory anxiety that you are feeling. Breathing is important! Meditation if important!
4. Be gentle with yourself
Many people have a hard time being “gentle with themselves”. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It is okay to not be able to deal with food issues as others do. Give yourself slack during the holidays. It is a hard time! Recognize and celebrate those times that you have been gentle with yourself.
5. Avoid places that you know will trigger you
Again, if it is too hard to go, don’t go. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing the struggle you have, then just say that “I don’t feel well today”. You aren’t running away. You are setting the boundaries that you need right now. If it is really important for “you” to go, then explain a little bit, and eat what you are comfortable with before you go.
6. Most Important: Get Support
Support is essential throughout the recovery process, but now it is even more important. Be sure that you connect with those that “you know understand and are supportive”. Schedule an additional session with your Psychologist, nutritionist, or counselor.
7. Anticipatory Anxiety
Write out the things that you anticipate will trigger your anxiety; therefore, your eating disorder. Make a plan of how you will handle each situation. Rehearse the plan. You may still feel some anxiety, but it may be significantly less.
Most important is a having a place that you feel you are understood and not judged
An eating disorder support group may be just what you need. EDSNA offers a drop-in support group that is online so you can access it from anywhere. Since it is a drop-in group you can register for just that session just hours before the group starts.
Online Drop-In Support Group