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Surviving the Holidays with an Eating Disorder: 3 Helpful Tips

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Everyone who has or has ever had an eating disorder shares this common sentiment: the holidays are the most difficult time of the year. There is an abundance of unhealthy, tempting food, family dinners, and plenty of holiday parties that encourage the overconsumption of food and alcohol.

However, the act of simply accepting that the holidays are an exceptionally stressful time for you can alleviate a lot of the anxiety you're feeling. By trying to ignore the stress you feel by telling yourself to "be normal" or "just have fun," you will just frustrate yourself. You don't have to "feel normal" - you are allowed to feel however you want, and you are also allowed to do whatever it takes to make yourself feel comfortable. If that means skipping some or all of your holiday parties? So be it.

This is your recovery, and only you know what's best for yourself. That being said, here are three useful tips to successfully survive the holidays and continue your recovery.

1. Make a list of all of your worst fears during the holidays.

Then, go through each fear and write down a rational solution to that situation.
Here is an example:

Mom is making my favorite pie and I'm afraid that I'm going to lose control and eat too much of it.
Solution: I know that I have self control, and I can either ask Mom to give me a small piece, or I can share a piece with Aunt Susan. Also, I can drink tea with my pie so that I'm not tempted to keep going back for seconds and thirds.
I'm afraid of people asking me questions about why I'm not eating very much
Solution: People who ask those kinds of questions aren't judging me, they're just curious. I can either tell them that I'm trying to be healthy or that I've already eaten. I won't feel threatened by these questions because I know that I don't need to rush my recovery, and I'm confidant that next year I'll be even healthier.

By making this list, you will hopefully realize that you are in control of your recovery, and that you are ready for any situation.

2. Make sure you have a mentor or friend who you trust, and who you can call in times of need.

It doesn't matter if it's a therapist, your best friend or your mom, make sure you have someone who can really get through to you when you're having anxiety about food. Then, if you're at a party and you start to feel overwhelmed, you can excuse yourself, call your mentor/friend and vent to them about how you're feeling. They will hopefully calm you down and help you remember that you're in control, little slip-ups here and there aren't a big deal, and most importantly: you're an amazing person because you're YOU, not because you look a certain way.

3. Plan out exactly which events you'll be going to, and make goals for each event.

For example:

Christmas dinner at Aunt Sally's house
Plans: arrive around 6:30, eat around 7, leave around 9
Goals: try a little bit of everything, including dessert, eat slowly and enjoy the food.

By specifically writing down your goals and expectations for an event, you will feel much less anxious going into it, and you'll be much less likely to backpedal in your recovery. Make sure that you record the event after it happened as well, and even if you feel guilty for having a bite of pie, record it as a success: a goal accomplished.

Finally, to successfully survive the holidays with an eating disorder, the biggest thing to remember is that if you make a mistake, it's not a big deal . Everybody makes mistakes, and you're no exception. Tomorrow is a new day, a new beginning, and you can continue your recovery right where you left off.