It’s officially the festive season and no matter where you are in life – at school, university, home or at work – you are most likely to find yourself involved in some form of festive celebration. In this series “I’m Recovering This Christmas”, we’re sharing our thoughts and tips to keep your recovery the priority this winter.
If you’re reading this blog and suffering with an eating disorder, let’s firstly recognise how positive it is that you’re seeking advice and guidance for handling mealtimes at Christmas. We know just how daunting and anxiety-provoking these experiences can be – and that finding true peace and acceptance can only come through a journey of ups and downs that can’t be “taught” through a blog post. However, as you’re reading this blog, we’re supporting our clients through the festive season and sharing some of the tips below that you might also want to consider as we count down to the ‘big day’. Know that you, too, can do this.
Plan ahead of time – and do so with the support of loved ones
As much as you probably don’t want to think about food and mealtimes, “to prepare is half the victory”. If you can, take a moment to sit with a loved one and discuss your anxieties and what your triggers might be on the day. Perhaps you can reach out to whoever is hosting the event to let them know that you’re going through a difficult time and may need some small adjustments to the plan in order for you to join in as much as possible. It’s okay to state your needs and ensure that they are met.
Take time to consider how to handle portions and buffet-style meals
We often find that buffet-style meals can be a real challenge for those in recovery from an eating disorder. Assessing hunger levels or knowing a “normal” portion size is often skewed when eating disorder thoughts take over.
Take a moment to consider the best way to ensure your portions are right for you and your recovery: perhaps a loved one can help you, or you could receive guidance in advance from your therapist and/or Dietitian. If you know in advance how you’re going to handle the way the meal is laid out, you’re more likely you keep calm and composed throughout, leaving you with enough mental space to connect with friends and family.
Sit next to someone who is supportive
The festive period is a time for family and friends to get together, and whilst that’s usually a joyful experience, it can be really difficult for those in recovery as there’s the risk of (often well-meaning) comments triggering unhelpful thoughts and feelings. At the table, be mindful of who you’re sitting next to or opposite. If you feel they may say something that might make the meal difficult, see if you could switch the seating plan around a bit. Make sure you’re sitting next to someone who you feel comfortable with so you can squeeze their hand if something comes up.
Create a safe space for yourself, and know that you can escape to it
If family time sounds overwhelming – that’s okay! Family time can be overwhelming for people regardless of whether they’re suffering with an eating disorder or not. Just ensure you have a safe space you can return to for some reflection and peace and quiet. Perhaps you could create a safe word with a family member so they know you need a short break and need to be checked in with after a period of time. All of these actions are ways of ensuring you can keep your recovery the priority – it is not “needy” or “weak” to need time out.