Christmas time is about a lot of things – peace, joy, goodwill, meeting up with family and friends, exchanging presents, watching festive episodes of your favourite shows.
However, it would be naïve to leave out the fact that it’s also about food.
In fact, Christmas is notorious for having food and drink that only appears at that time of year. We buy mulled wine, mince pies, selection boxes, giant tubs of sweets and plum puddings all to be consumed in a dozy stupor after the most famous of all the festive feasts – Christmas Dinner.
It can feel like a lot of food over the course of two weeks for anyone, but if you struggle with an eating disorder, it can become a minefield of deception and anxiety that leaves you feeling thoroughly miserable.
If you’re worried about how to handle Christmas this year, try a few of the following things:
1. Plan ahead
Ask yourself what you need to do to make Christmas as enjoyable as possible for yourself. If you live with your family or others, do you need to add specific things to the shopping list? Do you need to let certain people know that you’d prefer if they didn’t comment on your food choices? Do you need to distract yourself during the day?
Figure out what you need and start taking steps to put those things in place. For example, you could make a list of what will make you feel safe and share it with your family.
2. Stay in touch with people
It’s important to take time to yourself when you need it but spending too much time alone can lead to negative thoughts that can affect your mood. This, in turn, can influence how and what you decide to eat.
Stay in touch with people who understand what you’re going through and who can support you on the day.
3. Stick to your routine as much as possible
If you have found a routine that works for you and helps you manage your eating disorder, stick to it as much as possible on Christmas Day. It might feel strange to be eating at different times to your friends or family but if that’s what you need to do, so be it.
Explain to them why it’s important for your mental health that you stay true to what works for you and hopefully they will respect and support your decision. If they don’t, or try to persuade you to eat what they’re eating, remove yourself from the situation and call a friend or trusted adult at Childline.
4. Learn from your experience
Think back to how you handled other events and occasions that involved food. Was there a particular one that went well? What happened to make it go smoothly?
Is there a family member who always comments on your eating habits? Do you have a response ready in case it happens again? Bodywhys suggests simply saying: ‘It’s important for me to be able to manage things at my own pace at this moment’.
5. Be kind to yourself
Try not to be too hard on yourself over the festive season. A lot of people struggle with similar issues and you don’t have to feel bad for needing things to be a certain way. Talk to a trusted friend or family member if you feel overwhelmed and take things one day at a time.
Of course, it’s just as important to protect yourself in the New Year when there is a heavy emphasis on diets and resolutions that can trigger turbulent emotions for someone with an eating disorder.
Just remember, you’ve got this. December 25th is just one day in the calendar and if you need to talk, Childline is always there to listen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.