22 December 2017

What I've learnt about recovery at Christmas

"It's the most wonderful time of the year...."

But it can also be one of the hardest if you're recovering from an eating disorder. The types of food around us, the amount of food around us, the talk of 'Christmas binges' and gaining weight seems to be constant. Then, even before Boxing Day is out, people turn their attention to diets. 

I love Christmas but I hate it too, so these might not work for everyone, but they help me. 

1) Write a festive food plan

Even six years into my own recovery, I dread the 'unorganised' and out of routine eating. So, to combat that I write a special Christmas meal plan for the 24th - 26th December when I am around people and eating at parties when I am not in control or in my usual routine. Of course, ideally I would be okay with food and going with the flow, but I am not. I am also sure I am not alone in this. I try to stick to my usual pattern of eating - Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with 2 or 3 snacks. I find that helps me not spin 'what have I eaten...have I over eaten.." around my head and allows me to relax more. I do this for Xmas eve, the big day and Boxing Day. 

My plan looks a little like this; In our family the big Christmas dinner is at 1pm. So, I have my breakfast as usual and add some fruit and nuts from around the house to it. I usually see my starter at dinner as my Mid Morning snack, my main meal is my Christmas dinner and the Christmas pudding is my afternoon snack. Then we have a 'tea time' buffet - which generally I add a vegan option to for myself - and some salad. Then for supper, if I can, I let myself have something sweet. I struggle with 'unhealthy' in my head still, so I take it as it comes. Of course , I DO eat more on Christmas Day, than usual...but...

2) Remind yourself it's just a day (or two) 

...that leads me on to this. It is JUST A DAY or I am not going to lie though, I look forward to the 27th and getting back to a stable eating routine. This is how I cope, not necessarily the 'right or wrong' way. Keep it in perspective, and breathe. I repeat to myself, one day eating more than usual will NOT make me fat or greedy, that it is okay. 

3) Pace and portion for yourself

I try whatever I do to not compare my eating to other people around Christmas. Being vegan means I eat differently anyway but also my eating disorder makes me feel different too.  But also, because I am sticking to a plan and NOT overeating beyond comfort I need to remind myself that getting hungry at teatime dosen't make me greedy, it is just because I am eating regularly. If it helps, serve your own food, we do this anyway and I only put what I usually eat on my plate.  

4) Take some timeout 

I find the whole Yule a little overwhelming with people and food, so don't feel bad for needing some space. I used to journal a lot, and found some Christmas Days I wrote pages and pages to calm down and put things in to perspective. If you need to, go find a quiet space and read a new book or old favorite. You don't need to be 24/7 party mode, if you need a break from the festivities, then have one. I have recently taken up yoga again, so I am going to make sure I get to a class between Xmas and New Year.

5) Phone a friend (or helpline)

Even if it is a text message or quick SOS call, just knowing someone else 'gets it' and knows what you're dealing with, it'll help off load (and maybe approach the next tip!) For me, it's my best friend who also has mental health problems. We know we can text each other what we're faced with. If I am sick of getting offered food I don't want for the 100th time - and she's struggling with socializing, I KNOW she's there.

If you haven't got someone close to you there IS someone to talk to the Samaritans are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week over the Christmas period. You can call them on 08457 90 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org

6) Try to use your voice

Tensions can be fraught at Christmas, aren't they? Most families will have a debate or bicker or two. It's tempting just to sit and suck it up - to hear lots of uncomfortable conversations and not tell people how unhelpful they are. But if you can, and it won't cause WW3 to break out, just politely say that you don't find it helpful to hear here about the calories in foods, or to listen to how people are going to drop the weight in the new year. I know I am one who CAN speak up, and does. 

7) It doesn't have to be perfect.

I am guilty of wanting Christmas to be 'just so', for everyone to be happy, for things to go to plan and for everyone to have a good time. But that just isn't the case. In 2011 I had the WORST Christmas ever, I was dying, I was in crisis and I had arguments about food and threw my Fortisip at my Mum. I've seen this since as the 'reset' button and since then I have just tried to enjoy moments and appreciate little things. 

8) Be a big kid

I am lucky to be an Aunty so I take the chance to play with their new toys, spend QT with the little ones and have lots of cuddles. How about picking up a game and getting the family to play? It's the little things that make Christmas after all....

YOU CAN DO THIS! Merry Christmas! 


Helpline opening times
1 December - 24 December: 3-10pm
Christmas Day: 6-10pm
Boxing Day: 6-10pm
27 December - 2 January: 3-10pm

During this time you can contact our Helpline Advisors by:

Picking up the phone and calling 0808 801 0611 for the Adult Helpline, 0808 801 0711 for the Youthline
Sending an email to help@beateatingdisorders.org.uk or the Youthline fyp@beateatingdisorders.org.uk
Accessing our one-to-one chat service
Sending a direct message on Twitter to @BeatEDSupport


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