I don’t often talk about my history with Bulimia, even though it was one of the biggest struggles of my life. I was young when I developed it and recovered within three years. One of those years I had to be an inpatient at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) since my symptoms were becoming too severe for at-home care. I am proud to say, I am 100% recovered from Bulimia which is incredibly difficult to achieve. Most people who suffer from eating disorders will never 100% recover, and more than half will struggle in their daily lives. I feel blessed and I am so proud of the work I put into recovering from Bulimia and today I’m going to share with you the top ten tips to get through the holidays while struggling from an eating disorder.
Winter depression, going home to family, stress levels rise, exams and new years resolutions are all common stressful events happening at the time of the holidays that can happen to anyone. It is especially hard for people suffering from eating disorders because the holidays are known to revolve around food. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve dinner, Holiday dinner, New Year’s Eve with immense amounts of food&drinks. What we need to remember is the fact that these holidays are focussed upon family and friends rather than the food. Holidays are about being with your loved ones and enjoying each others company and if someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, it’s important to remind them of this.
It’s important for people who suffer from eating disorders to have a plan in advance and a support network. Remember that it’s an extremely stressful time for your loved one and they need compassion rather than force or guilt. Please respect their disorder while urging them and helping them to do the best they can. The following tips have personally helped me get to the point of 100% recovery. The first couple holidays after my recovery were still hard, but with the support of loved ones was essential to aiding my full recovery.
Tip One: Have a plan in place
It’s important, if not essential, to have a plan in advance of the holidays to prepare yourself for whatever you are about to embark on.
Tip Two: Know your meals beforehand
Plan your meals with your family, and have an agreement on what you will be eating. Try to eat what others are eating, but if you are a vegetarian, or lactose intolerant, etc. then be sure to have a replacement for what you would be missing. DON’T SKIP IT.
Tip Three: Sit with company for all meals
When I got out of inpatient treatment, I made a “deal” with my family that I would sit at the table with them after the meal for at least 20 minutes (therefore the digestion process begins and purging is more difficult).
Tip Four: Know your meals beforehand
Avoid food as a gift, such as candy in the stocking, especially if you struggle with binging and/or purging. This could be a trigger for binging and/or purging episodes. Talk to your family beforehand, avoid candy and/or access to large amounts of food. Remember tip #3 sit with company while/after you eat!
Tip Five: Journal
This seems like a fairly obvious tip, but journaling your experiences, emotions, and worries can help you express and understand what you’re feeling much better. It can help to see your thoughts on paper, and maybe try a chain analysis to solve them. Try not to log your food, and forget calories!
Tip Six: Stay off social media
Social media is a huge trigger for those struggling with eating disorders, hell even just being on the computer is. There are triggers all around, on websites, magazines, shows, Instagram, movies, etc. Try to stay off the computer altogether but if you do choose to use the computer, stay off social media! At least until the holidays are over.
Tip Seven: Had a symptom?… Don’t worry
Symptoms are almost impossible to avoid, especially during the holidays. If you end up counting calories for a meal, taking a laxative, purging, or any other symptom of your disorder, take five breaths or do a mindful meditation. Become present and aware of your surroundings, it’s ok! Recovery is not a straight line! Be in the moment, count the sounds, count the colours, snuggle your pet, cope! It doesn’t have to turn into a regular occurrence, simply let go of what no longer serves you.
Tip Eight: Avoid grocery shopping, baking, or cooking
Depending on where you are in your recovery is dependant on whether this is applicable to you or not. While I was in inpatient treatment for Bulimia, I was forced to go grocery shopping, cook, eat dessert, etc. basically all the scariest things for someone with an eating disorder. The difference for me was that I had nurses, doctors, and support available to me 24hrs/day. If you have not gotten to the point of grocery shopping, baking, or cooking in your daily life especially if you haven’t even tried it yet, avoid these triggers since the holidays can make them much more intimidating.
Tip Ten: ENJOY..!
Yup, I’m gonna be corny for the last tip- enjoy yourself! The holidays are extremely difficult for anyone suffering from mental health problems, having an eating disorder on top of that in the most “feas’t’ive” time of year is a huge trigger. Be proud of every little victory, keep talking, accept help and support, keep a journal of your feelings, laugh with loved ones, snuggle your pets, and try to enjoy a warm holiday. Remember, this might be the time of year to celebrate with food, but the basis of the holidays is being with those you love, as long as you are enjoying the holiday in the healthiest way possible, you’re succeeding.