When you or someone you love has an eating disorder, food-centric holidays like Hanukkah, Thanksgiving and Christmas pose a particular challenge. The affected individual is likely to experience significantly greater stress knowing he or she will be expected to spend time with family and friends enjoying meals and holiday treats.
Through our work at the Looking Glass Foundation, we have developed several tips to help you enjoy the holiday season:
1) Taking care of yourself tops the list! Get enough rest, plan things you enjoy, stay close to your support system, and know your limits. The holidays can present us with opportunities to attend multiple gatherings in a week and it can be overwhelming, even for those without eating disorders. Journaling can be a good way to help you process feelings of isolation and anxiety and stay centered.
2) Plan ahead, make the challenges smaller, and take small steps. Isolating yourself to avoid food triggers can be tempting but it keeps you from growing and gaining confidence. You may want to host your own smaller gathering with foods you feel comfortable around rather than attend a big party somewhere else. You could plan to enjoy a serving of something you love but would not normally eat. You’ll know whether a step is right if it’s more appealing than worrying.
3) Divert your attention. There are so many ways to make the holiday season memorable. Wrapping presents, using your creativity to make a gift, lining up the holiday music, doing a favour for an elderly neighbour, and volunteering are ways to remember that gratitude is healing and at the heart of our holidays.
4) Know who to call if you find yourself in the occasional crisis. You may have moments when you feel particularly alone with your inner struggle. If you have a close friend or relative who understands, make a plan to be in touch. It can be as simple as a morning walk together, a phone call, email or texting for the understanding and encouragement you need. Or you can keep in touch with your therapist or join an online support group if needed. If you’re struggling and don’t know where to turn, contact the Looking Glass Foundation for Eating Disorders here for compassionate support and guidance.
Remember, you are not alone. Many others are facing eating disorders, and as you move forward with your own recovery, you are demonstrating to others that they, too, will succeed.
Trixie Hennessey, MSW, RSW, is our wonderful, ultra talented Program Coordinator at The Woodstone Residence. To learn more about the transformational work being done at the Woodstone Residence, click here.