Christmas can be a stressful time for anyone. However, with so much focus appearing to be on food, Christmas is often an especially difficult time for those living with an Eating Disorder. Whether you are the person with the diagnosis, or you are supporting someone with one, – here are my ‘top tips’ for surviving the festive period.
1 – Plan ahead: Eating Disorder recovery often includes quite a structured approach; routines with food, medical appointments and day to day life. This structure is there to help you work towards recovery. However, this can mean some people struggle to be flexible to changes in this routine. Planning ahead can help manage the anxiety of the temporary changes caused by Christmas. Find out what time (approximately) your Christmas meal is, so you can plan your other meals around this without restricting or binging. Look at what festive plans (shopping, parties etc.) you have made and make sure that you also have some ‘down time’ between them to recuperate. Also, don’t forget to ensure you have pre and post-holiday appointments booked in with the professionals you are working with so that you know what support is available, and when.
2 – Take the focus off food: The Christmas period for many people revolves around food – but it doesn’t have to. Make plans with loved ones that include spending time together doing things, rather than only coming together to eat. Perhaps you can decorate the house with a friend, walk the dog with your sibling, or play games with that long-lost relative who’s visiting.
3 – Limit how much alcohol you drink: For those with Eating Disorders, drinking too much alcohol can often be a trigger for binge eating and self-destructive behaviours. I’m not suggesting you completely abstain (unless this is what you personally need) but do limit your alcohol consumption to 1-2 glasses.
4 – Be open: With yourself and with others. If there are things you need to survive the Christmas period then you need to communicate these to the relevant people. It is easy to think you are helping others by keeping quiet, but the people that care for you will want to attempt to help you have a good Christmas too. Trying to cope with it in silence is likely to lead to disaster.
5 – Seek Support: Know who is available and when so that there is always someone available to talk to if you need some support. Also, note down the Christmas period opening times of help lines such as the Samaritans, Papyrus and b-eat so that you have this to hand should you need it.
6 – Try and enjoy yourself: Your Eating Disorder doesn’t have to become the main focus. Do things that you enjoy, spend time with people you care about and be as kind to yourself as you can be!
I hope these suggestions help a little. If you have more tips, please leave them below in the comments section for others to read.