Eating Disorders

6 tips for making peace with your plate for those who struggle with eating disorders/disordered eating.

Amidst all this joy and celebration, there is one aspect of the festivities that can cause problems for some……meals, and lots of them. During the holiday season food is everywhere! You can’t escape the constant barrage of temptations. From candy canes on the Douglas Firs to roasts in the oven, food finds its way into most family and social functions with persistent veracity. And making peace with your plate can be daunting for those who struggle with eating disorders (ED’s) or disordered eating at any stage of recovery.

The combination of circumstances that come together during the holidays can be overwhelming for many, but for those who struggle with food this can be an especially trying time. The higher volume of trigger foods available (foods that tend to make those with eating disorders fear weight gain) and increased social activities with friends and family can increase anxiety. Fortunately,  with some guidance and practice you can find your way through in every situation.

Here are 6 tips to get you through the stress and on to enjoying the holidays:

Throw away that scale!

I know this sounds counter-productive but it’s the worst “tool” you can use.  Keeping a weight scale at any point during recovery can be damaging and often times sabotaging to your recovery efforts. If you cannot bring yourself to throw it away, place it in another room.  Or better yet, the trunk of your car.

Anticipate the Struggle!

There will be times you will be triggered and want to engage in negative behaviors (restricting, binging, or purging). Identify support people who will be there for you. Whether it’s a phone call, or in person, it’s helpful to get support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone.

Be Kind to Yourself!

It’s common for those in recovery to be “perfectionistic” and often times overly critical of themselves. Practice kindness and compassion towards yourself. This may take all kinds of forms; from journaling, talking to a friend, taking a deep breath, and so forth. Practice makes progress (not perfection).

Consult a Medical Professional.

Discuss your concerns with a dietician who specializes in working with eating disorders.  They can offer you a range of tools from a specific meal plan to help in implementing broader guidelines to use when making food choices during the holiday season.

Get a Counselor.

If you aren’t in therapy already, consider the benefits to seeing a provider that specializes in eating disorders as well.  They will be able to partner with you in deciding what is and isn’t helpful in order to give you the tools to enjoy this time of year.

Focus on Joy, Not just the Food.

Be mindful that the holiday season is more than just about the food.  Focus on traditions of fun activities you would like to implement or continue from your family of origin.

The challenges that the holiday season brings are an opportunity for growth. By facing your eating disorder head on, you will become stronger in your overall recovery process. Celebrate the fact that you’ll get through this and become more resilient and closer to kicking your eating disorder to the curb once and for all.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Shannon Meyer, MA, LMHC