For all their joys and excitement, the holidays can also bring with them many challenges and stressors. Because most of our holiday celebrations center around feasts with our families, these stressors magnify ten-fold for individuals with eating disorders. As an experienced online therapist in Michigan, I’m here to help you (or someone you know) as you battle with your eating disorder this holiday season.
Understanding Your (Or Your Loved One’s) Eating Disorder
Before we explore some tips and tricks for navigating the holiday season with an eating disorder, I want to provide a little bit of background information on these unique psychological challenges.
Generally, eating disorders are simply the physical, outward manifestation of underlying psychological or social challenges. We can’t recover (or help someone recover) from an eating disorder without first understanding the root of the issue. The list of possible causes for eating disorders seems to go on and on, but a few highlights include:
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty expressing emotions and needs
- Strict definitions of body image and what is considered “attractive”
- Cultural or familial pressures to meet certain physical requirements
- History of sexual or physical abuse
Some people find that strictly regulating their diets allows them to have some sense of control over their otherwise out-of-control existence. Others find that binge eating and/or purging can help them cope with the emotional roller coasters they face every day. No matter what the underlying challenges may be, you can be confident that almost everyone with an eating disorder is working through something else at a deeper level.
Surviving The Holidays With An Eating Disorder
Because most eating disorders are rooted in deeper psychological challenges, any attempts to simply cure the eating disorder without also working to solve the underlying problems will probably be unsuccessful. That being said, there are ways to help overcome the outward challenges eating disorders can present. I would be honored to offer my online therapy services to help you overcome the deeper challenges, but I also understand that with the holidays upon us, finding simple methods to ease the external challenges can be enormously beneficial. Here are a few suggestions to help you survive the holiday season.
1. Cut The Stress Wherever Possible
Because eating disorders are often linked to other pressures, minimizing the external stressors in your life can make it easier to overcome your eating disorder. If hosting big family gatherings stresses you out, for example, plan for everyone to meet at a different family member’s home. Be honest with yourself about what you need and stick to it.
2. Eat At Regular Intervals
Some people resist the urge to eat on Thanksgiving morning so they will be “extra hungry” when it’s time for the feast, but upsetting your normal eating schedule can pose extra challenges if you are battling an eating disorder. Maintaining a regular, moderate eating schedule can be incredibly helpful.
3. Find A Buddy
Combating eating disorders can be both emotionally and physically challenging. Don’t try to navigate these challenges alone. Find someone you trust to be your rock during the holiday season; if you experience an anxiety attack or other episode, you’ll know who you can go to for help.
4. Devise A Strategy
The fact that they are fundamentally unpredictable is possibly the biggest challenge associated with eating and/or psychological disorders. You can never know exactly when an attack will strike. Before inviting others into your home (or going to someone else’s) devise a game plan with your “buddy.” If an episode should present, you will know how to handle it.
5. Give Yourself A Holiday
Many eating disorders are the result of an incredibly strict and regulated dietary regime. The holidays are all about allowing ourselves to relax and recharge, so why not extend this mentality to your personal dietary habits? Take this opportunity to allow yourself a break from your normal regime.
Most importantly, remember to be lenient with yourself. If you catch yourself purging, bingeing, or in some way reverting back to your old patterns, don’t beat yourself up over it. Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them and keep moving forward.
Don’t Be Afraid To Seek The Support You Need!
Don’t forget to be honest with yourself about your needs. There is nothing wrong with needing help to overcome the challenges you may be facing. If you are interested in learning more about online therapy in Michigan and how I may be able to help you overcome your eating disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I truly look forward to talking with you.