Coping at Christmas – Part Two: With an Eating Disorder

Christmas can be a difficult time with any mental health problem, but especially so with eating disorders as food forms such a large part of the festivities, and involves eating in a way that doesn’t fit with your normal routine. It involves different foods, different meal times and different people. These things can be hard, but Christmas can also be enjoyable. No matter what stage you’re at, it doesn’t have to be all bad. There can still be good moments and there are ways you can make it easier:

  1. Be realistic. If you’re near the start of recovery, it’s going to be harder and what you can achieve is not necessarily the same as someone who is near the end of recovery. Focus on where you are, don’t compare yourself to any one else.
  2. Be proud of yourself. If even sitting at the table is a big deal, be proud. If eating anything at all is a big deal, be proud. Or if you’re in a stage where you are able to eat more, but managing pudding is a big deal, be proud!
  3. Talk to someone. Professional, friend, family member, it really doesn’t matter so long as it is someone you can be honest with. Have someone you can text or call if your feelings and thoughts get too bad. Perhaps speak to someone who is going to be there at the meal times so they are aware of how hard it is for you.
  4. Say no. It’s alright not to go to every meal, every party or every event.
  5. Don’t compensate. It’s more likely to lead to reactive eating episodes if you miss things to compensate for other things. Don’t let your eating disorder trick you into eating less than you’d normally eat.
  6. Remember it’s Christmas. It’s normal to eat differently, it’s normal to eat extra. It’s also normal to gain a little weight (that doesn’t mean you will carry on gaining weight forever). Remember that it is Christmas and this is time for you to spend with those you love.
  7. Think about what can help you specifically. Whether that’s having a plan of what you’re going to eat, talking to the person serving the food, having a plan to go for a short walk before/after meals to calm you down or asking your family not to comment on what you eat.
  8. Enjoy it! As much as you can, have a good time.  Even if some parts are really tough, that doesn’t mean some parts won’t be really good, and remember that if you fight through this year, each year you will find yourself struggling less and less.

For general tips on coping at Christmas look here.

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