How To Cope With an Eating Disorder at Christmas
When you think of Christmas, you automatically think of food right? so imagine being surrounded by something that you are so desperate to avoid. It can feel suffocating. Because I know how difficult this time of year can be, I've written about a few of my memories of Christmas and how to cope.
When I was a child, Christmas was the most wonderful day of the year. My little brother and I would run into my parents bedroom and open our stocking on their bed. Mum would always give us chocolate coins (and still does). The day would involve dressing up in a pretty dress and having to stare at the presents under the tree, desperately wishing to open them, but mum would always make us wait until after Christmas lunch. My grandma would make delicious desserts and we'd eat an unnatural amount of cheese (the addiction started early). We'd play board games and then everyone would nap. It was a celebration of love, food and our family.
As I got older and anorexia became a part of me. Christmas became a time of worry. On Christmas Eve my family went to my grandparents for dinner, I was surrounded by all of this food and the temptation got too much. I ate more than I had in a long, long time. It wasn't actually that much, but compared to what I was used to, it was. I felt incredibly uncomfortable and disappointed in myself. I made myself sick and I compensated on Christmas Day by eating less. I remember being so upset with myself because I loved Christmas and I wanted to be a part of it, but I wasn't there. I was consumed by guilt instead.
Another Christmas came around. I had started recovery and my grandma made me a separate dinner of a nut roast which I felt more comfortable eating. During the lead up, during my weekly sessions with the ED nurse we would talk about how I was feeling and how I could help myself. My parents agreed not to pressure me but keep an eye on my mood. Mum and dad really helped me prepare. I was starting to enjoy myself and worry less about what I was eating. However, I think my parents were worried that I would regret my decision in the morning so when they thought I was over-doing it they would say something. I remember my grandma saying "is she all right eating all of that?" because they simply weren't used to seeing me in this way. And my mum moved the crisps away from me. It was like I wasn't even there. I know that they were trying to protect me from myself, but I felt really aware and self-conscious of that.
Last Christmas was the first year I had been recovered at Christmas time! I was so determined to enjoy myself. And I did. It was the first year my boyfriend would join me for Christmas, everything seemed to be working out for the best. However, obviously I was aware that I was in a skin tight dress and that my boyfriend would see me in this way. Although I enjoyed my Christmas dinner and everything that came with it. Part of me was restricting what I ate. I think I told myself that I was full and that I didn't want anymore, but really, I just wanted to look good. Which I find hilarious now because me and Max eat ridiculous amount of food together.
Looking back at all of these memories makes me sad and excited. Of course I am sad that I let so many memories pass me by and did not truly live in them. But I look forward to future years of Christmas. The food doesn't scare me anymore, it's the best part. I'm going to enjoy being part of a beautiful family and celebrate that. I can't wait to see the babies, my siblings and my parents / grandparents and my Max all together enjoying each others company, presents, desserts and awful Christmas TV.
But I know that for some people, you won't be celebrating Christmas like I do now. This is what I would do or have told myself if I was struggling now...
Christmas doesn't have to be about food. Yes it is usually a huge part of the celebrations but you can focus on the other parts. Enjoy laughing and playing board games with your family. Exchange presents and see someone's face light up. Do all of your Christmas traditions without thinking about the food, what you ate too much of or you didn't eat enough of.Create your own rituals / self-help tricks.
You can create your own Christmas. Go for a walk or write something down. Distract yourself if you have to.Talking about food is common every day let alone at Christmas. A relative is bound to moan about the amount of food they've consumed and their New Years resolution to join the gym. Those comments are probably not aimed at you. Your family will not be purposely trying to trigger you.
Try to remember that and let the comments pass without feeling a reaction.Only do what you can handle. Just because its Christmas doesn't mean you have to give 110%. Do whatever you can and be proud of that. Don't overwhelm yourself or make yourself uncomfortable.
The day isn't about your eating disorder. If you have a meal plan. Adapt it slightly to include festive foods so that you're still within your comfort zone but making a change. Take the time to go over this with your parents or nurse
.During the lead up, prepare yourself for what is going to come. If you do this, then your feelings won't creep up on you and you'll know how to handle them. Maybe start eating more before Christmas day so that your body will be used to it. Maybe talk to your parents about how you want the day to go. Maybe read blogs about how other people cope to get inspiration.
Be honest. If you don't want to eat a certain something. You don't need to prove anything to anyone. If you'd rather have a different meal then think ahead and sort that out.
Be in the moment. See everything happening. Watch the love unfolding. Hear the laugher. Appreciate everyone in the room. And Appreciate yourself. Don't spend the whole day on your phone or worrying about food or even hiding from food. Just live.Control.
Sometimes our senses get the better of us and you have to trust yourself to make the right decisions. Intuitively eat if you want. You don't need a set structure. I know that I was worried about eating at different parts of the day and not my usual routine. If that's the case for you, mentally prepare yourself and maybe eat snacks as you go along so that you're not waiting for that 'one Christmas dinner'.I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas.
Be proud of yourself appreciate what's around you.
"Life can be magnificent and overwhelming - that is the whole tragedy. Without beauty, love, or danger it would almost be easy to live"