Maintaining Eating Disorder "Recovery" During the Holidays

The holidays can be a mixed bag of feelings for those "in" or maintaining "recovery" from an eating disorder - on one hand it's exciting and fun to attend holiday parties and spend some time with friends and family.  On the other hand it's terrifying.

Maintaining "recovery" during the holiday season can be tricky.  With many get-togethers evolving around eating and gifts of sugar cookies and chocolate, food is everywhere.  Not to mention the watchful eyes of caring and concerned family members on how much food or what exactly you're eating.  It can be stressful.

I think the important part is to realize that you are not alone and just because the holidays bring up feelings of fear and discomfort doesn't mean that you are failing on the never-ending journey of recovery.  We all have moments of struggle with the eating disordered thoughts.  We all struggle with how much power we're willing to give those thoughts.  In my opinion, recovery does not mean total remission of eating disordered thoughts and sometimes eating disordered patterns under certain circumstances.  Recovery is an ebb and flow of learning and shifting, about learning what your triggers are and working through them.  Recovery is separating yourself from the eating disorder and lessening its power.  It's about challenging the eating disordered thoughts so they have less control over your life.

The holidays are not a test for how well you are at maintaining recovery.  It's ok if you slip up, or have a "food moment" as I like to call them.  It's how you let these moments affect you that matter most, which is why making the time to practice mindfulness can help you get through it all.  Viewing a set-back as a learning curve rather than a setback can only help you in the long run, when the inevitable eating disordered thoughts take precedence against your rational mind.

Maintaining a routine over the holidays can also provide some support.  Make a commitment to your regular yoga classes, journal writing, mindfulness meditation practice or therapy sessions.  Don't compromise on sleep, regular exercise and time outdoors.  Take the time to do things that make you feel good.  Nurturing your mind will only help when you need the willpower to work through moments of stress.

Be patient with yourself and accept the ebb and flow of recovery.  You're not always going to have good days and that's ok.  Going into the holidays with this notion in mind can be a helpful way to approach this high-stress time of year.

View the holiday season as a learning curve and not a test for recovery.