Eating Disorders and Holidays: Tips For Enjoying Get-Togethers
Although you may have much to be thankful for, holiday celebrations can mean increased levels of anxiety and stress if you are struggling with an eating disorder.
With a bit of planning, you can reduce your discomfort and make the celebration more enjoyable. Here are a few tips to help you have the best possible day.
- Ask someone to act as your support person during the holiday gathering. This individual can help distract you should there be a triggering situation or conversation. He or she might also help steer the dinner conversation away from the subjects of weight, food and how much people are or are not eating. When you need a reassuring glance, your support person can provide it.
- Decide ahead of time how to give yourself a break from the festivities. You might plan on taking a walk, hiding out for 20 minutes in a quiet bedroom, or slipping out to the garage for a phone chat with a friend. Maybe the family dog would enjoy a game of fetch in the backyard.
- Be sure to have your bag of tricks with you – those items that you know can help you cope in stressful situations. Bring that inspiring book of quotes or artwork, your journal, a hand-held game, essential oils, your iPod, noise-reduction headphones or anything else that helps you relax and soothe yourself.
- This might be the year to tell people ahead of time that it is not OK to discuss weight or food issues with you or around you, and that comments concerning your eating habits – or anyone else’s – are forbidden.
- If you will be at a friend or relative’s home and are especially anxious about the day, have an escape plan. If possible, drive yourself there so you can leave when you wish, or bring the means to take a cab home if necessary. Another option is to ask your support person if he or she would be willing to drive you home early if you feel you must leave.
- Have some conversation questions prepared ahead of time, such as, "Uncle Joe, what’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory?" Or, "Cousin Jean, what five things are you the most grateful for this year?"
- Have a statement prepared to use if someone starts asking you about your weight or eating disorder, such as, "I only discuss that with my doctor and nutritionist but I appreciate your concern.”
- Remind yourself to breathe, and stay focused on what you are thankful for instead of the day’s possible or probable irritations. Every time you notice yourself getting annoyed or upset, affirm your gratitude for something that you treasure. It may not be easy, but it will help.