The holidays are coming up, and that means one thing: lots of food. From your grandma telling you to eat seconds, or thirds…or fourths, to the people telling everyone how they’re living it up before they start dieting as part of their new year’s resolution to get healthy. They all mean well, and many of them might not even know how these types of conversations can hurt others. But the truth of the matter is that with all of this food around and—maybe worse—talk about food, the holidays are an especially stressful time for those of us struggling with body image and eating disorders.
Here are 10 simple ways to take care of yourself during the holiday celebrations this season:
- Be honest and open. If your family knows about your eating disorder and have proved supportive in the past, simply say to them, “Do you mind if we talk about something else? I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m not completely comfortable with this type of conversation right now?” Of course, this method isn’t for everyone. If your family isn’t in the know or isn’t so understanding, this might not be the best route for you.
- Make a list of your positive qualities that have nothing to do with your appearance or your relationship to food. If you are having trouble coming up with things, ask those closest to you for some help (if you feel weird or embarrassed doing this, you can tell them it’s for a project or tell them their good qualities in return.) Put the list in your pocket or keep it in your phone, and when you feel triggered, read the list over and over in your head while taking calming breaths.
- Give someone else a compliment. If your brother is talking about how fat he feels or your aunt is saying she needs to lose some weight in the new year, give them a compliment to make them feel better. Keep in mind that people might take offense if they say they’re unattractive and you say in return that they have a nice personality (they’re not mutually exclusive!), so I like to compliment something about their physical appearance and then move on to an aspect of their personality or something they’ve achieved. It will make them feel better, and it will steer the conversation away from the especially triggering areas.
- Change the subject. If someone points out that you’ve lost or gained weight, politely change the subject and say: “Well, that isn’t so important to me, but did you hear about (fill in the blank)?”
- Phone a friend. Or text them. Just find a friend who knows about your eating disorder who can be available to you when things get to be too much. You can open up to them or simply ask them to distract you.
- Spend time with the parts of the family who won’t be talking about diets and food and body image. Yep, go play with the kids and the pets of the family if there are any.
- Change the routine. If your family is all about talking and eating, suggest a movie or a game or even a dance party. It’s a good way to make memories and take your mind off of things.
- Help out. If you can’t find any other way out, spend the day volunteering. Many food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters need help on the holidays. You’ll be doing good for yourself and others.
- Don’t get hung up on the expectations. Sometimes we get caught up in what this time of year should mean to us or how much we used to enjoy it, and we forget that the most important thing is just getting through it; enjoyment will come later. You have to be patient with yourself and put your well-being above all else; you’ll thank yourself later.
- Love yourself and each other. Okay, so it sounds cheesy, but isn’t that what the holidays are really about? Practice self-love and self-care at the end of it all, and don’t be afraid to reach out to those you love. You never know who else might be struggling right now.
We love our family and friends, and their words and actions have power in our lives, but we have more power because we control how we react to others. Don’t let the holidays ruin any progress you’ve made, and don’t give other people too much power over your life and your road to recovery. You’re still in control. Don’t give up. I’m right here with you.