Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season when family, friends, and co-workers gather to celebrate, eat, and drink. For people with eating disorders this time of year can be anxiety provoking, to say the least. Excessive amounts of food, sweets, and alcohol present obstacles that can magnify the emotional strain and turmoil for those suffering with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.
More than 30 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder – you are not alone. Recognizing that you are dreading the holiday season is an indication that you may need to reach out for help. With proper treatment, support, and planning you can survive the holidays. Having tools to manage triggers and unhealthy thoughts can get you and your loved ones through a landmine. Here are 10 tips to help you remain strong, stay on track, and most important, enjoy the holidays!
- Stay on course. Holiday’s bring distractions. Protecting your recovery and keeping your routine is paramount.
- Continue doing what you know works for you and keep your eyes on the prize: a life of integrity, honesty, balance, and joy.
- Plan ahead. You can’t plan for everything, but having a plan in place will help you know what to do when things get challenging.
- Identify your support group. Surround yourself with people who love you and want to see you succeed.
- Speak with your therapist or dietician and decide what you will and can eat at meals. If triggers arise, know how to handle your anxiety and still eat.
- Look for a friend or family member who can provide support. Let them know you’re struggling.
- Ideally, someone from your support group will be with you. If not, be sure to have their phone numbers on hand, so you can reach out.
- Have responses ready.
- Prepare your responses should a family member or friend say something to you that is critical, judgmental, or makes you uncomfortable. It’s ok to take a break if you feel overwhelmed.
- Practice self-care: Take special care of yourself and plan some time for yourself to do something that you enjoy.
- Self-care means different things to different people, but it is one of the most important things you can do during the holiday season.
- Set Boundaries. Say “No” when you need to. Give yourself permission to take breaks from family or group situations if you need to regroup or engage in some self-care.
- Determine one or two events or activities that feel important to you and focus on those.
- Letting your loved ones know that you value your time with them and want to be with them may lead to them being supportive of you when you need to take breaks or opt out of a situation to care for yourself or seek support.
- Your loved ones may be feeling anxious about how to support you; communication and patience is key.
- Listen to your body. If you are in a place in your recovery where you are practicing intuitive eating, practice listening to your body during holiday mealtimes and events. Notice the feelings of hunger and fullness, and allow yourself to give your body what it wants and needs.
- If you start to question yourself and/or what you are eating (you ate too much food or something you consider to be forbidden), try to treat yourself with compassion and kindness.
- There is no perfection in recovery and no perfect way to get through the holidays with an eating disorder.
- Remember that if you are struggling you can reach out and seek support, and that a slip or a lapse does not mean the end of the world or the end of your recovery. You can always regroup and reset.
- Recovery is a process, and it takes time.
- Eliminate negative self-talk. Before accepting your negative thought as a command to follow, externalize it.
- For example, when you have a thought like, “I can’t eat the stuffing, it’s not healthy”,” label it as “an eating disorder thought” and rephrase it as “My eating disorder is telling me not to have the stuffing.”
- Once the thought is defused, it will be easier to find a more workable course of action which may involve disobeying the eating disorder, such as “Thank you, eating disorder, but I’m not going to listen to you. I don’t want to let my mind bully me.”
- Make affirmation cards. This is a great tool to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations until you feel better.
- Make a list of positive affirmations and write each down on an index card.
- Choose one, look at yourself in the mirror, and read it out loud (every morning, if possible) for 30 days. Doing it in the morning starts your day on a positive note and the affirmation will become a part of you. Try a new affirmation every month.
- Repeating your chosen affirmations regularly can help put an end to negative thinking and help you develop new strengths and self-awareness.
- Do fun things. This is a chance to be creative.
- Go for hike
- Take a bubble bath
- Volunteer for an organization for which you are passionate
- Learn to play an instrument
- Blow Bubbles
- Watch a favorite kids movie or TV show
- Take 10 pictures of things you feel thankful for
- Do a jigsaw puzzle
Mendi Baron, LCSWCHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Mendi is the founder and CEO of Eden Treatment Center. His vision was to create a sanctuary to provide hope and healing to women struggling with eating disorders and related mental health issues. As such, he developed a residential treatment program that combined individual, group, family, and expressive therapies. He recruited topnotch clinical professionals who shared his passion and dedication.
Mendi has worked extensively as a therapist in individual, group and family therapy at various treatment centers such as the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development, the Carol County Youth Services Bureau, and Chabad Crisis Centers. He founded several adolescent residential and outpatient treatment centers in Las Angeles. He also serves as the CEO of Ignite Teen Treatment, hope street and Elemental treatment.
Mendi received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and social work from the University of Maryland. He went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland School of Social Work.