Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional and I strongly urge anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder to get help by confiding in a parent, trusted friend, pastor, doctor or counselor.
Can you believe it? Here we are, already in the midst of the holidays again. Having Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all lined up in a row always feel like a one-two-three punch, each holiday following just a few weeks after the other.
And we all know what that means: food, food, and more food. American culture has fused holidays and food together. Between family gatherings and church potlucks and school parties, we end up stuffed by January 1st.
For those of us who struggle with an eating disorder (about 20 million women in America), this time can be especially uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing. It can seem like no matter where we go, we are assaulted by turkey, candy, and beautifully decorated Christmas cookies.
We cannot avoid food (and we shouldn’t!), but there are a few ways to reduce our food-related anxiety and minimize panic:
Make sure we have plenty of “safe foods”.
Safe foods are the ones we feel comfortable eating. These are the foods we can eat without feeling immersed in shame. Since most of the food served during the holidays-not to mention the sheer volume-can often cause panic to begin rising in our throats, it is important that we remember to provide ourselves with safe foods so we do not try to avoid eating altogether.
Perhaps it is lots of fruits and veggies; carrots, celery, and cucumbers make great snacks. Other good foods to have on-hand are fruit salad, hard-boiled eggs, and nuts.
Find ways to focus the gathering off of food.
People tend to focus on the food, especially around the holidays, and it can easily become the topic of conversation and the centerpiece of the gathering. To take the focus off of the food for a change, try planning some fun holiday-related games.
Create a Thankfulness Quilt with construction paper decorated with images or words of things you are thankful for. This is a great way to get artistic with your family on Thanksgiving.
Host a board or card game tournament. Choose your family’s favorite game-Rummy, Charades, or Sorry!-and play until a winner (or team of winners) emerges.
Return to old holiday traditions. Did your family used to play a game of flag football on Thanksgiving? Give it another shot! Perhaps you put up Christmas lights outside or went to a farm to chop down the Christmas tree. Keep up those traditions that make the holidays meaningful for you and your family!
Remember we are not our eating disorders.
I know it’s overwhelming. We did not ask for this and it’s beyond our control. All we want is a normal day, a healthy relationship with food. It can feel like this is our whole lives, like it monopolizes our entire being. But we are so much more than our eating disorders: we are children of God, fearfully and wonderfully made, unfailingly loved.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1 NIV
May joy and peace cover you this holiday season.