The holiday season is just around the corner, literally. After a pandemic, this may also mean more outings, weddings, engagement parties, work Christmas parties, family gatherings, social outings/occasions with friends and thus a period of heightened stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown when you are battling an eating disorder. We understand just how challenging this time of the year is for you.
For most of you reading this, there would have been a time in your life where you looked forward to this time of year. The spontaneity of this time was what made the holiday season exciting…until the eating disorder came along.
Let us share with you that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing this time of the year, so we will share some strategies with you and hope that you can reach out to us if you are after a more individualized guide to this time of the year.
Plan and Prepare
Take time to think about the situations and occasions that may arise. Being extremely rigid on what you will eat and where you will eat can put you under more pressure and cause heightened anxiety, so working with your Clinician will put you in a position to cope as best as is possible. Will there be sit down meals, BBQ’s, tapa’s occasions? Brainstorm with your Clinician about how to deal with these occasions so the eating disorder does not prevent you from engaging, participating and enjoying these moments.
If you are going to a party or social event that is appropriate to bring a plate, it may be helpful to bring along a share plate with foods that you are also comfortable eating. What is most important is that you do not allow the eating disorder to ‘compensate’ for unknown meals by restricting earlier in the day. Regularity (aiming to eat every 3-4 hours) of meals should be a priority at this time of year. This will be helpful to prevent the feeling of ‘loss of control’.
If you are comfortable to do so, speak to your family about how you would like to be able to join in on mealtimes. Some strategies include:
- Discuss food options you would be comfortable with. Could they serve these alongside the traditional family foods?
- Discuss having a few dessert/snack options so you can choose one you are most comfortable with and be included in the meal rather than feeling like your meal is different to everyone else’s
- Choose a food role model – portion your plate off someone in the home who does not have an eating disorder.
This is helpful during this time of the year and every other month in recovery. Plan and prepare some responses you can use if family or friends you have not seen in a while, make (with good intention), unhelpful comments around food or body weight.
- Remove yourself from the conversation physically or change the subject
- Discuss with your friends/family before hand that you would appreciate that they abstain from diet or body image discussions
- Let them know that you are thankful for being able to spend time with them & grateful for the food prepared. You would rather not discuss how much food is eaten.
- Let them know that you are thankful for them as a person and you would rather speak about their qualities rather than appearance.
You may feel extra vulnerable at this time of the year. Reflect on what previous cues could have been for negative thoughts and distress.
Identify what could cause heightened stress and how you previously would have responded. Could there be a more helpful way to respond now? Could you plan in advance, how to deal with these scenarios?
Ensure that you have coping strategies in place should you begin to feel overwhelmed. For example, breathing techniques, meditation or talking to a friend or family member. Your Clinician can help you prepare strategies that work for you.
Recovering from an eating disorder takes incredible strength, persistence, and bravery. Focus on what you do enjoy about this time of year and stay focused on your recovery goals.
During this time, if you need extra support, reach out to the follow sites below:
Those with an eating disorder:
Family and carers:
Keep an eye out on Myrtle Oak Clinic’s Facebook page for updates.
- NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
- Lifeline: 131 114
- Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
- The Butterfly Foundation Hotline: 1800 33 4673
- HealthDirect: 1800 022 222
- Ambulance or Police: 000
Myrtle Oak Clinic encourages all clients to maintain medical monitoring throughout the festive season. Please seek emergency assistance if you have any concerns for your mental or physical health.