Eating disorders are uniquely complex, creating inner turmoil that manifests externally.

Joyful and exhilarating emotions typically surround the holiday season. Yet, it often becomes an incredibly difficult time for those struggling with an eating disorder.

For this reason, it’s important to know how the holiday season may impact you.

While each person has their own distinct relationship with food (and their family), some commonalities do exist.

Here are five tough things that you need to know and how to manage them.

1. The family table is still a battleground.

No matter how lovely the spread is or how supportive your family has been, the inner war will likely continue during the holidays. And the main battlefield is the table, as well as in your own mind.

Unfortunately, the negative feelings have a way of surfacing even when you feel “okay.”

Sitting at the table with family and friends—surrounded by mounds of food, no doubt—may be thrilling to others. To you, it’s uncomfortable and exhausting.

Be prepared for negative feelings and thoughts. If you need to step away, do so. Furthermore, if you’d rather spend time with family elsewhere, try to make that an option as well.

2. Being in recovery doesn’t minimize the disorder.

As mentioned before, you may feel “okay.” You may even be in recovery, living and eating in a healthy manner. Yet, the negative feelings and thoughts don’t always completely disappear.

Being in recovery doesn’t mean that you have a perfect relationship with food. And you know that.

However, others don’t often realize this complication.

As a result, celebrating the holidays may activate certain internal responses. To battle unwanted behaviors, keep specific boundaries on your holiday celebrations.

For example, instead of going to eat at a restaurant with your friends, go to a musical instead. Or, opt to play board games with family rather than decorating sugar cookies.

3. Eating often feels like a huge theater production.

Thanks to the holiday illusion that is Hallmark and Pinterest, many people aim to infuse their holidays with over-the-top elements.

This often means feeling obligated to eat the 3-tier dessert or sipping the 12 different kinds of punch.

In fact, others will likely pressure you to try this or that.

Keep in mind, you’re in charge of what you do with your body. Part of struggling with an eating disorder is the element of control.

So, give yourself the right to feel empowered during the holidays. Say “no” when you want to.

4. Difficult emotions don’t pause for the holidays.

Although it would be easier for your eating disorder to take its own vacation from your mind, it won’t.
During a holiday gathering, you may face the same thoughts and emotions that you have on other days.

Many people tend to let down and relax during the holidays. However, remaining self-aware will help you get through this season more than taking a lax approach.

This isn’t to say you need to stand watch like the Queen’s Guards. But do take a proactive approach to this season.

5. There are many more emotional triggers to face.

During the holiday season, most people spend more time with extended family or relatives they haven’t seen in a while. To put it plainly, all families have complicated histories. It’s the nature of family life.

Furthermore, the end of the year is approaching, likely causing you to think of the new year. You may be redefining your life goals, shifting your career focus, embarking on a new endeavor, etc.
Naturally, this season tends to produce deep pondering, which can easily serve as emotional triggers.

To be your best self, keep up with your self-care, check in with yourself frequently, and acknowledge the feelings that move through you.

Take the first step…

If you are ready to address an eating disorder that may be impacting your life, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Linda K. Laffey, MFT

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