Christmas can seem like one long food fest; mince pies, candy canes, turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, chocolates, cheese boards, not to mention Christmas pudding! With an eating disorder that can feel extremely over-whelming, especially when coupled with the pressure to be happy and full of festive cheer. Here are some of my top tips for enjoying Christmas while living with an eating disorder:
• Plan ahead – So as to avoid any last minute panic situations I’d recommend that sufferers and carers (perhaps including counsellors or care co-ordinators) spend some time discussing what will be on the Christmas menu, when it will be served and the expectation of what the sufferer will eat.
• Be realistic – An eating disorder is not going to disappear just because it is Christmas. You can however choose to accept it and avoid stress about it for the day.
• Non-negotiables -If you are going to be somewhere unfamiliar for the day like a relatives that you don’t see very often and don’t feel comfortable discussing the meal plan with them, consider taking some ‘safe’ foods with you in case you find yourself unable to eat what is on offer – opting out of eating altogether is not an option.
• Support - Try to have someone available to support you either in person or via telephone if you are likely to struggle with eating, sometimes all that’s needed is someone to tell you that it IS okay to have a mince pie. If you need additional support then remember that B-eat (The eating disorder association) helplines are open over the festive period (not including Christmas day or New Years day) on 0845 634 1414 and that Samaritans are available at all times on 08457 90 90 90.
• Escape route – Sometimes everything can feel overwhelming, especially when there are lots of people around, try to have a quiet place sorted so that you can have a short break to take some time to yourself and restore balance.
• Go online – Food shopping can be triggering, especially for those with Binge Eating Disorder or Bulimia, try shopping online so that you are not overwhelmed by the volume and variety of food on offer at this time of year.
• Say No – if you know that seeing Uncle Bill or Cousin Julie will end in tears because you have experience of them upsetting or triggering you in the past, make other plans; just because it’s Christmas it doesn’t mean you have to allow yourself to be treated badly.
• Say Yes – Don’t allow your eating disorder to stop you from doing things that you’d like to do. Yes, there might be food at the party, but your friends will be there too, and they will want to see you regardless of whether or not you partake in the turkey vol-au-vents.
• Focus – Remember that Christmas is not all about food. It’s also time to re-connect with loved ones, play games, have fun, relax, rest, and enjoy yourself!
Wishing everyone a healthy, happy and peaceful Christmas.