Christmas is a hard for time for lots of folks – not least those with eating disorders. For starters, you’re often in a family setting. This is lovely in some ways, but claustrophobic in others. Even though you (and they) may have changed, it’s remarkable how quickly everyone reverts to their stereotypes. If you’ve a history of eating issues, that’s a lot of unspoken baggage, scrutiny and extra tension – there is nowhere to hide. If you’re struggling and folks don’t know – it’s a desperate attempt to act normal, spritz yourself with air freshener, cry, vomit, then sally out for round two.
For those who restrict, it’s an endless series of high-calorie meals, prepared by others, and served under close scrutiny. For those who binge, it’s a permanent all-you-can-eat buffet, filled with all your trigger foods. Or, if you’re really lucky, there’s both.
Christmas forces us to confront some of the things an ED helps to hide. How we relate to others. How we cope with time alone or changes in routine. Old memories that can be incredibly painful. Comparisons that leave us feeling useless and empty. Recognise that this is the case – you’re not just going crazy; there are especially big stresses. But you’re going to get through it and you’re going to be ok.
So, here’s some things that might help:
- don’t starve yourself in advance. It’ll make you more emotionally fragile and it’ll set you up for a binge.
- don’t drink instead of eating. This is the road to disaster.
- talk to someone in your family or a friend who will pray for and support you. Do this in advance and explain how you’re feeling. If you can, ask them to help you plan ahead for the day eg; working out what you will eat and a routine to help you feel safer. Ask them to brief unhelpful relatives on not drawing attention to you.
- Don’t expect miracles. If you and family fight all year long, it’s likely you’ll fight on Christmas day. That’s okay.
- Try and be as flexible as possible. Just take it a little at a time and remind yourself how well you’re doing.
- Think about all the non-food things that Christmas is about. This could be little Bible readings or praise songs, a list of things you love about your family, time off, etc.
- Don’t cut yourself off from others but take time out for little breaks if you need to. This could be to pray, go for a short walk (don’t go jogging!), having a hot bath, or listening to some of your favourite music.
- Remember, this is just one day. It has 24 hours like any other and it will soon end. Take out a calendar and highlight the one day. Look how small it is compared to the other 364.
- It’s a dinner like any other – and some of the foods are a little different, but that’s totally ok. You’re doing well.
- Stay off social media – or, look up hashtags for those who are also struggling
- Have friends or people outside family that you can call or see for breaks.
- Be prepared for comments or questions about food. Work out what you will say in advance, eg; I’ve got a meal plan and I’m going at a pace that’s healthy for me.
- If you do have a meal plan, stick with it – even if you go over for a day or two – it will all even out.