Only 7 days left until Christmas. If that thought brings terror of crowded malls and clogged cyber space, you are not alone. For the many men and women with eating disorders, this countdown brings terror not just for shopping chaos, but also for a holiday dinner filled with turkey, ham, and pumpkin pie, and for overly anxious family and friends. Fortunately, there are ways to keep the holidays jolly. Read on. Even if you don’t have an eating disorder, these tips may help:
1. Keep up your routine. It’s easy to find that things are “off” with all the holiday festivities. If you find a daily walk or meditation session helpful, keep it up. Remember that the more you can do to center, the more centered you will feel.
2. Take time out from the crowd. All those things you’ve started to do for yourself need to continue. Read, take a walk, or listen to music. If you feel you need “permission” to take time out, then warn others that you will be doing so.
3. Keep things in perspective. The holidays are not only about food. Although good eating can bring pleasure, so can socializing with family and friends.
4. Enlist a family support person. If at all possible, identify a family member that you can confide in, enlist their support and work out with them specific ways of coping with the pressures of the day. Let them know about your fears around food.
5. Be prepared for comments about food from anxious friends and family members. Plan your responses. Avoid reacting defensively. Remember that others are trying to help, even if their way of doing so grates. Calmly let them know that you are doing your best, and although you appreciate your concern, the food is yours to manage.
6. Try to not expect too much either of yourself or of others. Holidays can sometimes work out differently than anticipated, but different isn’t always bad. Keeping expectations to a minimum will help you to avoid feeling disappointed.
7. Consult with the chef to know what is planned and to make your needs known. It’s ok to have some safe foods available — this may not be time for challenges. If you do feel ready though, enjoy!
8. If you really cannot face the celebrations, explore other ways celebrating with your loved ones, and make sure those ways are comfortable.
9. Stay in the moment. Breathe.
10. Most of all, remember that the best gift you can give yourself is accepting yourself for who you are, and where you are in your recovery.