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What the Holidays Are Really About (hint: it’s not food)

The hardest part when it comes to Eating Disorder recovery and the holidays is the food. And not just the food we see and eat, but the food talk as well. It’s all well and good if a family doesn’t really think the holidays revolve around stuffing and shortbread, but if food is all they talk about, then does it really matter what they believe?

What the Holidays Are Really About

My mom loves pumpkin pie. And this time of year-when it makes its grand entrance on the grocery store shelves-she gets so excited. But with half the members on my dad’s side being lactose intolerant, Pumpkin Pie rarely makes it on the dinner table. But does that make it any less “Christmas” to her? Does it suddenly not feel like Thanksgiving?

If a family gathers together on December 25 to spend time together and exchange meaningful gifts, but no Turkey comes out of the oven, no cranberry sauce is scooped onto the plates, and (gasp!) no iced cookies make it into anyone’s mouths-is it not really Christmas?

The hardest part when it comes to Eating Disorder recovery and the holidays is the food. And not just the food we see and eat, but the food talk as well. It’s all well and good if a family doesn’t really think the holidays revolve around stuffing and shortbread, but if food is all they talk about, then does it really matter what they believe? Maybe it does. But for someone trying to stick to their recovery while still enjoying the holidays, it doesn’t.

Remember, recovering from an eating disorder is similar to recovering from alcoholism-only we have to eat food; a recovering alcoholic doesn’t have to drink alcohol. Just a little perspective before I go on…

If Thanksgiving or Christmas means facing endless conversations about what we’re about to eat, what we think of what we’re eating, how happy we were to have eaten it, how full we are from eating it, and how we’ll compensate tomorrow  for the calories we’ve eaten, obviously it’s going to instill much stress and anxiety in any member of the family who is in recovery.

I almost didn’t show up to Thanksgiving for this reason (btw Thanksgiving in Canada is in October). But I went. And after I did, I wished I hadn’t. And I hate that fact. I hate that I wished I’d sat at home by myself rather than spend time with family because that time spent had posed such a threat to my recovery that it wasn’t worth it in the end.

See, I know the holidays are about WAY more than food. Actually, I know they aren’t about food at all. And, deep down, my family knows this too. But their actions didn’t follow this belief, on the surface, it very much was about the food. And that makes it hard. But I don’t blame them. How could they know any better? How could they know showing up to Thanksgiving was a trigger for me?

I can’t expect everyone to understand everything about my recovery, and it’s really up to me to take responsibility for my triggers and how I handle them, but I can say this: I hope everyone will remember what the holidays are really about, but more than that, I hope this Christmas they will show that in their actions, too.

Christmas is about being together. Not being together eating turkey. Not being together gorging on potatoes and stuffing. It’s about US. And if the food prevents everyone from being together-as it almost did at Thanksgiving-then that should be a sign the food is really the least important part, right?

It can be Christmas without turkey, but can it be Christmas without me?

I don’t want to skip Christmas for the sake of my recovery, and I know I won’t. So I hope this year the conversation and activities will revolve around me being there, around us being there. And not around the Pumpkin Pie.