Are you already dreading Christmas? Do you see it more as a time of stress and anguish than of joy and celebration? That’s so normal when you have an eating disorder, because food, being unable to follow your usual routine, and having to handle uncomfortable social interactions, become the center, which should instead be rejoicing at the birth of our Savior and enjoying the magic of the season with your loved ones.
On last week’s post, we started talking about some tips to face Christmas in the healthiest and happiest way possible when you’re recovering from an ED: challenging yourself during Advent, imagining Baby Jesus smiling at you, creating a support system, being rational and signing up for the Jesse Tree of Health Advent Challenge. You can still do the last one by clicking HERE or on the images you can find at the top and bottom of the post!
Now let’s explore some more tips:
Prepare an internal dialogue
Many people are going to speak with you, and they aren’t always going to say the right thing. Plan your answers, maybe not to tell them directly —although it’s great if you can take advantage of any chance to educate them, after all, in general they don’t have bad intentions, only lack of knowledge and too much influence of the rampant diet culture— but to tell yourself so you can remember what’s true:
If they tell you that you look healthy:
Take it as a compliment and don’t assume you look fat. No normal person would want to look sick. And if you aren’t healthy yet, don’t assume you already look as if you were. People say that compared to how you looked before, and with the intention of encouraging you. You’re going to look even much better if you keep going until the end. If, in a tender tone, they go as far as to say you look chubbier or more well fed, remember those are only expressions (in Spain it’s very normal for people to call their friends or significant one “gordi”, with literally means “chubby”) and they don’t actually want to say what the word itself means. Although of course I don’t understand why people use these words either.
If they insist that you eat something or do something that’s uncomfortable for you:
Don’t feel bad for declining and remember you’re taking care of your mental health.
If they make comments about the way you eat:
- How little you eat: you know you’re making your best effort and at home you follow your recovery plan. Be proud of yourself for that.
- How much you eat or how you’re eating things you didn’t eat before: feel good with yourself, because that food is what’s repairing your health. You’re eating what your body needs, despite the struggle, and that’s such an achievement.
- How weird you eat, why do you have to follow certain habits or bring your own food: you don’t have to give explanations, you know why you’re doing what you’re doing and you must protect your recovery process.
If they make comments about the food:
That it was too much, that “we’ve pigged out”, that they aren’t going to eat dinner to compensate, that “now we all have to go on a diet”, that X food is super unhealthy, etc.: feel sorry that diet culture has made such an impact on most people. Fortunately, you’re breaking free and in the future you will not only have a better relationship with food than when you had the ED, but than most people.
Resist the urge to compensate
Neither before nor after. Before, eat your usual meals, live your life as always, don’t restrict thinking that you might eat more, don’t do more exercise just in case you can’t later. Your body isn’t a bank account in which you accumulate calorie deficits or minutes of exercise in some moments, and then you balance it out by depositing the “excess” calories (does that even exist in recovery?) of another meal or the “missing” minutes of a workout. It’s a living organism. Treat it well in each moment, focus on doing what you have to do in each moment.
After, you have to put up with the corporal discomfort and the mental torment. If you hang in there, you will have won, even though you won’t feel that way. However, if you end up compensating, the illness will have won. Obviously, if you’ve really eaten a lot or finished too late, maybe you don’t need to push yourself to eat the same the rest of the day… but 1) it’s not you who should determine that, because you’re always going to tend to overestimate what you’ve eaten and 2) listen to your body, because maybe eating a little more was just what you needed.
Put your blinders on
Blinders are what you put on horses’ eyes so they can only see the way before them and don’t get scared of distracted by their side vision. Put (figurative ones) on you too. Focus on your own way, on what you have to do in order to recover, that’s going to look very different from what people around you do. For example, it’s very likely that you need to eat even more than others, because you’re trying to gain weight, because you have to eat extra calories to repair the internal damages of your body, because many times your metabolism speeds up with recovery and because many people eat less when they’re with others because that’s what society teaches us.
Also, the messages that are usually promoted as things for general health, for everyone, can’t be applied to you: they’re not for everyone, but they usually take for granted that in general people need to lose weight, and that’s why the recommended intakes and portion sizes are sometimes ridiculously small amounts.
Become immune too to every conversation about nutrition that’s not evidence-based but just parrots the last news on the media. And ignore the diets other people are trying, because they can have different goals than you, or be plainly wrong. You’re doing things well… for you.
Stop staring at others’ bodies to compare. Since you can’t see your own body with objectivity, it’s impossible for you to make a true comparison. Just keep going until you reach your healthier weight, and I grant you that it will be the one in which your body looks more splendorous. Health and beauty are two good things, and therefore they can’t be contradictory, but they go hand in hand. Think that if you’re not at a healthy weight and still see other people thinner than you, they most likely aren’t, but if they are, that’s their problem. They’re sick, and you don’t want to be like that.
Don’t be hard on yourself
One of the reasons why recovery is so hard is because, no matter what we do, we’re going to feel bad. If we do something that’s good for recovery, we’ll feel guilty, fat, dirty, lazy, greedy… But, on the other hand, if we don’t do that we’ll feel frustrated, like a failure, cowards, stupid… Stop that language. You already have enough with the insults of the illness in the first case, don’t add yours in the second one.
Try to do things as best as possible, but it’s totally normal that you get overwhelmed and end up eating less, not ordering what you really wanted because of fear, skipping a meal to compensate, having a panic attack because of a comment, being consumed by a comparison, falling into a harmful behavior, etc. Yes, all of those and more have happened to all of us. It’s fine. No step you take in recovery can be lost just because you have a slip one day. Keep going, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t turn recovery into another obsession for perfection.
And last but not least…
One last piece of advice: don’t forget that you’re still on time to sign up for the JESSE TREE OF HEALTH ADVENT CHALLENGE!! For each day of Advent, I’m sending an email to help you go through the history of salvation as told in the Old Testament, with a reflection and a call to action so you can apply it to your mental and physical health today. Just click HERE or on the images at the top and bottom of the post and follow the instructions 🙂 (It also works if you’re not in recovery, it’s about health in its broader meaning and you can tailor the calls to action to your goals!).
I hope those tips were helpful. Follow them, trust the process, and not only will you have a Merry Christmas this year… but next year will be the year in which you recover and bloom. Let’s shine!