Surviving the Holiday's with an Eating Disorder

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Taken From Eating Coalition at My Space Blog.

How can someone with an eating disorder healthfully navigate through the busy holiday season? Here are twelve suggestions that may help.

1. Eat regularly and in some kind of reasonable pattern. Avoid "preparing for the last supper." Don't skip meals and starve in attempt to make up for what you recently ate or are about to eat. Keep a regular and moderate pattern.

2. Worry more about the size of your heart than the size of your hips! It is the holiday season, a great time to reflect, enjoy relationships with loved ones, and most importantly a time to feel gratitude for blessings received and a time to give back through loving service to others.

3. Discuss your anticipations of the holidays with your therapist, physician, dietitian, or other members of your treatment team so that they can help you predict, prepare for, and get through any uncomfortable family interactions without self destructive coping attempts.

4. Have a well thought out game plan before you go home or invite others into your home. Know "where the exits are," where your support persons are, and how you'll know when it's time to make a brief exit and get connected with needed support.

5. Talk with loved ones about important issues: decisions, victories, challenges, fears, concerns, dreams, goals, special moments, spirituality, relationships and your feelings about them. Allow important themes to be present and allow yourself to have fun rather than rigidly focusing on food or body concerns.

6. Choose, ahead of time, someone to call if you are struggling with addictive behaviors, or with negative thoughts, or difficult emotions. Call them ahead of time and let them know of your concerns, needs, and the possibility of them receiving a call from you.

7. If it would be a support or help to you, consider choosing one loved one to be your "reality check" with food, to either help plate up food for you, or to give you a reality check on the food portions which you dish up for yourself.

8. Write down your vision of where you would like your mind and heart to be during this holiday time with loved ones. Take time, several times per day, to find a quiet place to become in tune again with your vision, to remember, to nurture, and to center yourself into those thoughts, feelings, and actions which are congruent with your vision for yourself.

9. If you have personal goals for your time with loved ones during the holidays, focus the goals around what you would like to do. Make your goals about "doing something" rather than about trying to prevent something. If you have food goals, then make sure you also add personal emotional, spiritual, and relationship goals as well.

10. Work on being flexible in your thoughts. Learn to be flexible in guidelines for yourself, and in expectations of yourself and others. Strive to be flexible in what you can eat during the holidays. Take a holiday from self imposed criticism, rigidity, and perfectionism.

11. Stay active in your support group, or begin activity if you are currently not involved. Many support groups can be helpful. 12-step group, co-dependency group, eating disorder therapy group, neighborhood "Bunco" game group, and religious or spiritually oriented groups are examples of groups which may give real support. Isolation and withdrawal from positive support is not the right answer for getting through trying times.

12. Avoid "overstressing" and "overbooking" yourself and avoid the temptation and pattern of becoming "too busy." A lower sense of stress can decrease a felt need to go to eating disorder behaviors or other unhelpful coping strategies. Cut down on unnecessary events and obligations and leave time for relaxation, contemplation, reflection, spiritual renewal, simple service, and enjoying the small yet most important things in life. This will help you experience and enjoy a sense of gratitude and peace.

Listen to your body!!!!!!!!
The first key to listening to your body is being able to detect when you are getting hungry. If you are indeed truly hungry, and not just looking for food to cure your boredom, stress, or loneliness, then it is time to refuel.

The second key is being able to know when you have had enough. Listen to your body. When you begin to feel full, you will know that you have had enough to eat. The goal is to feel content--not uncomfortably stuffed but not starving either. Sometimes this means eating 5 or 6 smaller meals a day instead of 3 large meals. And, remember it takes about 20 minutes for your body to realize it's full. Also, be aware of what you are eating--sit, chew slowly, enjoy the tastes, smells, and textures of your food.

The third key is moderation, nothing to extremes. Often people hear this advice and think it means they can eat whatever they crave, all the time. Obviously we cannot survive on potato chips or peanut butter cookies alone. And if you tried, chances are you'd probably start to crave some pasta or fresh fruit after awhile. These cravings are your body's way of helping you get the nutrients it knows you need.

Be thankful for your body!!!
Your body is extraordinary--begin to respect and appreciate it.

Create a list of all the things your body lets you do. Read it and add to it often.

Become aware of what your body can do each day. Remember it is the instrument of your life, not just an ornament.

Create a list of people you admire: people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world. Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.

Walk with your head held high, supported by pride and confidence in yourself as a person.

Don't let your weight or shape keep you from activities that you enjoy.

Wear comfortable clothes that you like and that feel good to your body.

Count your blessings, not your blemishes.

Think about all the things you could accomplish with the time and energy you currently spend worrying about your body and appearance. Try one!

Be your body's friend and supporter, not its enemy.

Consider this: your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver every six weeks, and your skeleton every three months.

Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can enjoy the day.

Every evening when you go to bed, tell your body how much you appreciate what it has allowed you to do throughout the day.

Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Don't exercise to lose weight or to fight your body. Do it to make your body healthy and strong and because it makes you feel good.

Think back to a time in your life when you felt good about your body. Tell yourself you can feel like that again, even in this body at this age.

Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself--without mentioning your appearance. Add to it!

Put a sign on each of your mirrors saying, "I'm beautiful inside and out."

Choose to find the beauty in the world and in yourself.

Start saying to yourself, "Life is too short to waste my time hating my body this way."

Eat when you are hungry. Rest when you are tired. Surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength and beauty.

Make a recovery toolbox!!!

Recovery is not just about learning to eat in a healthy way. It is not just about gaining or losing the required amount of weight. While for some patients it may be important to get medically stable first, somewhere along the path of recovery everyone will need to fill their Recovery Toolbox with many items not included on the dietician's menu of what to eat.

What needs to be in the toolbox:

The Issues & Feelings Viewfinder:

Eating Disorders are not about weight and food. They may seem to be, but these are just symptoms of something much deeper going on, triggered by your own feelings and issues. Feelings such as low self-worth, depression, sadness, anger, confusion, frustration, fear and insecurities -- Issues like low self-esteem, dysfunctional relationships, lack of boundaries, perfectionism, being a "yes" person, social self-judgement, phobia or isolation -- are just some simple examples.

You need to be willing to find and explore what those issue are. You need to be willing to heal from the pain and/or anger. You will have to learn to express and talk about what you feel, and to address what your issues may be. You will need to learn to identify your own negative emotions and what triggers negative thinking. Ultimately, you need to learn to identify and cope with the stress in your life and the emotions that you feel.

Therapy is a great way to help you discover what's going on inside. Support groups are helpful. Journaling about how you feel, buying self-help books and workbooks, going to self-esteem seminars, thinking about how your relationships and pivotal people in your life have effected you, thinking about choices you've made, exploring what you have (had) and do not (did not) have control over, visiting with past major events of your life -- these are all important parts of getting to your issues and feelings.

The True-Voice Megaphone:

It's common to hear in the recovery community -- "use your voice". As part of recovery you need to learn to use your voice... to express what it is that you are feeling, to be able to communicate effectively with others what it is you need, what it is you lack, what they can do to help. You have to be able to tell someone you are feeling insecure. You need to learn to say "I'm feeling sad today, I could use a hug." Using your voice is about the benefit you get in doing so.

There are many ways to learn to express yourself through recovery. Sometimes it will be by taking risks to just say how you feel to someone you trust. Sometimes it will be to write a letter to someone, expressing your emotions. A good place to start is in a journal, in therapy or a support group, or even in an online support forum.

The important part to remember -- this is your TRUE-voice megaphone. When you talk about nothing but what you weigh, or losing weight, or food, you are censoring your true voice and what it is your really are feeling and going through. You may have spent many years translating your problems and emotions into concentrated discussion on weight and food... you must learn to find your TRUE voice beneith the symptoms of your Eating Disorder.

A Coping Bank:

Suffering with Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating/Binge Eating, as said above, isn't about food... but you use your food behaviors to comfort, numb, isolate, "purge", self-punish, etc -- to COPE with whatever is eating you up inside.

It's essential on the recovery path to find new coping skills. Once you learn to identify your feelings and issues, you then need to be able to cope with them. It is a difficult slow process, but without the process of learning healthier coping skills, you're left with nothing as a healthy replacement for a set of really unhealthy behaviors.

We take the money we earn and put it in the bank for when we need it... A Coping Bank is essentially the same thing. We take what we learn about coping alternatives and put them away, in the backs of our minds, for when we need them. Click here Read more about making your own coping back.

A Glass That's Half-Full:

Constantly thinking "I can't do it" will set you up for something called "self-fulfilled prophecy", which means you predict and carry out your own future. You do have the ability to create your own success. If you are constantly thinking negatively about yourself and what you need to do, you only makes it all the harder a task... and it becomes all the easier to just give in to your negative thinking. Being a negative thinker may seem "natural", but learning to give yourself credit, to look for the positives in yourself, and to say "I can do this" is an essential part of recovery.

Affirmations can help. Motivational exercises/games can help. Doing a gratitude list each day ("Today I'm thankful for [fill in the blanks]" -- it can be as simple as "I'm thankful I made it through today" or "I'm thankful for supportive friends"). Asking those you love and trust to give you a different (healthier) perspective can help. Surrounding yourself with supportive people can help. Something as simple as a bumper sticker on the ceiling above your bed that says "I CAN DO IT" can help. Find creative ways to be your own cheerleader, and to ask for reassurance when you're having a hard time.

Support Network:

Is it impossible to recover all on your own? Probably not. Is it more helpful to have supportive people around you? Absolutely.

It is important to surround yourself will people who will encourage your recovery; Who will provide you with some accountability while you're learning to be accountable to yourself; Who will listen to what you are going through and what you are feeling. A therapist, a support group, a close friend, a spouse or partner, a family member, or even an online bulletin board... they can all be supportive in your fight for self discovery and recovery.

Ask friends to make you accountable. Ask family members to ask you how you really feel when you start harping on weight and food. Ask your spouse to listen to your insecurities. Ask anyone willing to support you to listen, and ask them for what you need.

Personal Responsibility Checklist:

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own recovery. Your checklist is the way you learn to be accountable to yourself.

Am I doing my best to keep myself safe?
Am I surrounding myself with supportive people?
Am I trying to listen to healthy advice from supportive people?
Am I asking for what I need?
Am I getting what I really need by restricting/purging/binging?
Am I expressing how I really feel?
Am I doing the best I can right now?
Am I being honest with the support people in my life?
Am I being honest with my therapist?
Am I being honest with myself?
Am I asking for more help if I need it?
It is up to you to get what you need to recover. It is up to you to ask for help to get what you need to recover. It is up to you if you take your meds (if necessary) and it is up to you to say they aren't working if they're not. It is up to you to show up for your therapy appointments, and it's up to you to be honest with your therapist and other support people in your life. AND if you are having a seriously hard time doing any of these things, it is up to you to say "I need more help here."

Everyone has the ability within themselves to recover. Regardless of coexiting psychological illness, regardless of life circumstance, everyone can improve their life by illiminating the part of them that says "I hate me" and by getting rid of an unhealthy coping mechanism such as an Eating Disorder. Fill up your recovery toolbox, reach out and ask for help, and I know you can do it!