This time of year is never any easy one for me though every year it does get that little bit better.
There have been Christmases’ gone by where I retained control, not even allowing myself to nibble of something sweet or anything that could be defined as a treat. Christmas dinner for me didn’t incorporate a whole lot other than what I would have any other day of the week. God how there were times I longed to just have one piece of chocolate or a spoonful of mincepie but the anorexia that had taken over me didn’t believe I would be able to stop at that one bite and even if I did it would put me completely off balance.
Christmas time is for many a time of indulgence, food becomes the central focus which is completely acceptable…put an eating disorder in the equation and the situation becomes a different one altogether.
I went from years of starving myself at Christmas, being obsessed with what everyone else was eating and spending most of the day and the days around it worrying about whether or not I had slipped up at any point that I couldn’t remember or if possibly some of my food may have gotten contaminated by others being cooked resulting in my mistakenly eating more calories than I had calculated. Yes, it was that extreme.
From one extreme to the other…I then went on to embrace Christmas and all the associated food and drink on offer…albeit excessively. I’m not just talking about the usual excess that people eat on Christmas day; I delved in to store cupboards of mince pies, sweets, and biscuits before they were even open. I’d eat food from the fridge when no one was looking and make trips to the kitchen when everyone else had gone to bed. There were two Christmases that I spent the whole day bingeing, right up until I thought my stomach might explode; the second time around I had acquired the habit of purging which meant I actually managed to consume even more than the year previous.
The starvation and bingeing continued through the holidays, one day of bingeing, followed by 2, 3, or 4 days of complete withdrawal; the most I would allow to pass my lips being a single Granny Smith apple; they were top of my “safe” yet filling foods.
There is extra pressure around Christmas time for those with eating disorders to eat/starve/binge/purge whatever the case may be.
Last year was by far one of the best Christmases I’ve had since before my eating disorder troubles. I ate the food I liked from what was on offer, allowed myself the occasional treat and managed to maintain balance. More importantly I spent Christmas Day feeling relaxed rather than being uptight and anxious about what I did or didn’t eat. It isn’t easy, but it does get easier. Below are some of my tips for making it through the holiday season and managing to enjoy it regardless of whether you have an eating disorder or not.
- Prepare mentally for the big day; make sure you take plenty of time to relax beforehand, whether it be having a bath, reading a book, anything that relaxes you and takes your mind off of food if even momentarily.
- Make an effort as best you can to sample some of the food on offer; it might be an idea to speak with a friend or relative that will be spending Christmas day with you about the pressure you feel and explain that you don’t need any extra encouragement to eat
- Focus on the fun activities other than those centred on food; games, watching movies, exchanging gifts and just generally catching up with friends and family.
- If you’re someone that binge eats/purges you need someone to take on the role of what you might call your “sponsor”…until you are strong enough to say no yourself you can turn to them when you get a wave of anxiety or a desire to binge and stop it in its tracks; telling someone how your feeling can help put the whole thing in to perspective even if only for the short term.
- Depending on your stage of recovery and which form of eating disorder you’re suffering from, try and allow yourself a little bit of what you fancy. Not having anything will either feed the anorexic mindset or cause you to want to binge; it’s all about balance.
- If you don’t feel you will be able to eat what is on offer make sure to have the foods that you eat available.
- DO NOT EAT TO PLEASE; both when I was deeply entrenched in anorexia and when I was binging and purging I ate to please others which only resulted subsequently in more destructive behaviour. Of course I’m not encouraging anyone to not aim for progress and recovery but Christmas day just might not be the right time or maybe it’s the perfect time, to take those first steps.
All time favourite Christmas movie…Home Alone!
Since Christmas went so swimmingly for me last year I’m really looking forward to it this year. More than anything else I’m looking forward to catching up with family and friends! I have stopped for to take a breath over the last few months…it’s been work, cook, eat, blog, sleep and I’ve been neglecting my loved ones! It’s not as awful as it sounds, I have no dependants! I am however really big in to family and we’ve a few nice get together’s planned this year including a night away with all my aunties and uncles on my mum’s side of the family to celebrate my Nan and Granddad’s 50thwedding anniversary.
I’m now at a really good point in terms of being able to have a little bit of what I fancy here and there; I’m not going to lie, there is always the potential for that little voice to pop in to my head, that niggling feeling or urge to skip a meal or binge, but I know I’m stronger now, I know I don’t need to give in, the self destructive behaviours have been broken. If urges or feelings do arise it is the latter that I question; I’m at a point where I can question the reasoning behind my thinking and put it all in to perspective.
Give yourself the room to breathe and just be this Christmas and allow it to be your best yet!