For most people, Christmas means thrill, light, fun, nice things… but, when you’re recovering from an eating disorder, it’s one of the most dreaded times of the year. We see how we’re going to have to deal with too many things we can’t control, concentrated in very few days, and that generates anxiety. What am I going to eat? What triggering comments are people going to make? Am I going to have time to work out? What can I do if the thoughts are too strong and I panic?
Calm down. Take a deep breath. I understand those fears; last year, they got me trembling. Uncertainty made me be all day mulling over it, before and after the celebrations. In addition, the ED took advantage of that to play with my distortion and make me feel huge, so trusting was even more difficult.
We have to avoid that vicious circle of overthinking-weakening-being more prone to the thoughts-let the thoughts in-be anxious and desolated-relapse with sick behaviors. And it’s possible to do it. This year, I’m much less nervous thanks to, on the one hand, the progress of my recovery (the mind follows the body, it’s true!) and, on the other hand, to the systems I’ve learnt to put into practice.
You can learn them too and internalize them, if you follow the tips I’m going to tell you below and on next Tuesday’s post. But first, I invite you to read my previous post, “Merry and Healthy Christmas… in Body, Mind and Soul!” to find general tips, focusing on those related to mental and spiritual health. They’re complimentary and the foundation to be able to implement these new ones.
Challenge yourself during Advent
It’s a mistake to think that, since over Christmas time you’ll have to face many food challenges, you should save yourself for those and slacken off recovery during Advent. Don’t give in to that temptation. On the contrary, consciously set challenges, daily if possible. They don’t necessarily have to imply eating more. Some examples (it all depends on the guidelines of your treatment and the stage of recovery you’re at) could be:
- Replacing a safe snack with Christmas sweets. Bonus: adding.
- Purchasing an Advent calendar with chocolate.
- Going out to eat. Bonus: ordering a fear food.
- Letting your family cook a surprise meal without controlling how they do it. Bonus: not complaining, no matter what, when they give it to you. Don’t try to eat less of it either.
- Trying new ingredients.
- Daring to add sauces. Bonus: not light versions.
- Eating something without weighing or measuring it.
- Sitting for some time after eating. Bonus: 1 hour or more.
- Shortening even for 5 minutes your workout routine. Bonus: taking a spontaneous rest day.
- Watching a Christmas movie while sitting. Bonus: eating popcorn.
That way, you’ll be much more ready for the similar circumstances that you’re going to live during Christmas. You’ll already be accustomed to these things, and therefore they’ll be easier to manage. In addition, as you realize you don’t become fat overnight when you do those things, you’ll become more confident that you can do them and they won’t be so scary.
Imagine Baby Jesus smiling at you
Challenges are great, but only if they have a purpose. If you have the constant feeling that you’re doing things wrong, that in fact you don’t want to recover but it’s been a mistake, that you’re failing physically and morally… why going through all these torments?
Because of that, because you’re not always going to want recovery on its own, you need to place your why in something bigger than you. In God. He loves you infinitely, He believes in you (no matter how much you believe in Him), He’s looking forward to seeing you bloom and be the person He was thinking about when He created you, to the fullest. Therefore, He wants you to recover. He rejoices, smiles and throws a party every time you eat, every time you do the right thing despite the thoughts.
At Christmas, it’s easier than ever to bring this image to your heart. Every time you’re struggling with a challenge, imagine Baby Jesus before you. A cute baby, how could one not feel moved? And, with every bite you take, He smiles to you more and more, He applauds, He laughs, He sends kisses to you. Let His tender joy penetrate you so as to be able to keep going.
Set up a support system
You don’t have to do this alone. Think which people you can count on to vent and to look for support and advice when you see yourself so attacked by the thoughts or when some event is stressing you too much.
Don’t believe you’re annoying. Just the opposite, by allowing others to help you, you’re helping them to grow as humans and to develop their own vocation of service we’re all called to.
Moreover, remember that the ED thrives in secrecy, it’s where it can manipulate you the most; many times, just by taking the brave and humble step of saying out loud what it is whispering to you, the temptation disappears or pales greatly.
It would be ideal to have an accomplice in the social meetings you go to, to whom you could make a motion if you’re feeling bad about something, and therefore they could help you to get out of there, to have some alone time to calm down, or to change the subject of the conversation. But, if you can’t find someone like that (or in addition to, you can never have too much support!), look for people you can call or write to telling them openly what’s happening to you.
I myself would be so glad to help you, so don’t hesitate to contact me via instagram or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can subscribe to my email list and I’ll send you a PDF with the first steps you need to take when you start ED recovery, or sign up to the Jesse Tree of Health Advent Challenge (I’ll talk about it later).
Truth sets us free. An eating disorder gets irrational ideas stuck into your head, that have you terrified but are totally false. By contrast, knowing the truth is very empowering because it allows you to make decisions being aware of their real consequences. Among other things:
- You know one meal doesn’t make you gain or lose weight. Not even several.
- You know that skipping exercise one day, or several, don’t make your body look fluffy.
- You know you don’t have to eat less the days you don’t work out, among other reasons, because you need most of the calories you eat just to keep your body alive anyway.
- You know the body always try to maintain homeostasis, that is, basically the state of things just as they are. This affects all the previous points.
- You know you need a lot of food to repair the internal damage caused by the ED. And probably to gain weight too.
- You know there are no bad foods, even if they scare you. And that no food can ever harm you more than the ED.
- You know your body is not as you see it, but you suffer from a syndrome called body dysmorphia, that is, distortion of your body image.
You know it. All the scientific data show it. And you’ve seen it thousands of times in other people. And, if you didn’t know, now you know it, and here I am as a living proof it’s true. Remember these objective data when you have irrational fears.
Sign up for the Jesse Tree of Health Advent Challenge
As I already mentioned in my previous post, the key to live Christmas well is to prepare yourself well during Advent. In order to help you with that, I’ve created this free challenge. The Jesse Tree tradition (which is very popular in the US, but you might not know if you live in other country) consist on going through the history of salvation in the Old Testament, specially through the ancestors of Jesus, to discover 1) God’s love and 2) how everything in His plan makes sense in the end.
In the daily emails you’ll get, you’ll find the correspondent Bible verse and a short reflection that will help you apply it to your mental and physical health, so you learn to take care of yourself according to God’s love and plan for you. You can sign up HERE or clicking on the images at the beginning and end of this post. I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with you!
Be on the lookout for next Tuesday’s post, where I’ll give more important tips to have a Merry Christmas while recovering from an eating disorder. Until then, begin to apply these!