The holiday season can be an especially terrifying time for someone with or recovering from an eating disorder. Cookies. Cake. Pie. Food. Food. Food. Even without eating the turkey the thought alone is enough to send one into a coma- or at least a pretty full-fledged anxiety attack.
I’m not going to lie- I’m pretty worried about my mood levels for the holiday season. It doesn’t help that my birthday is three days after Thanksgiving, which means both pie and birthday cake in one week. I’m nervous.
Most anxiety, I think, stems from the heightened difficulty of getting exercise in. It’s cold out so people don’t want to go outside. Gyms get really crowded. When family is off work and visiting, it seems rude to leave for two hours to go to the gym.
But, there are alternatives. When it snows, simply going outside to play in the snow and build a snowman is some great cardio work. Shoveling the driveway is sure to get you sweating! Just going out for a walk around the neighborhood with your family is a nice way to spend lazy afternoons.
It’s so easy to pump out advice like this to others. Completely rational, level-minded thoughts. But, it’s not so easy trying to convince yourself that it is enough when you’re living with an eating disorder. The thoughts in my mind that talk back to those statements are “well, you certainly don’t burn the same amount of calories making a snowman than being on the elliptical” “you’re eating more calories in the winter and you’re getting less exercise than usual” “you can tell other people that one month of unusual eating won’t kill them but you’re different; you’ll pile on the weight and go back to school looking disgusting.”
It’s terrible the thoughts that go through my mind at this season. There’s really no way for me to prevent them, but there are ways for me to quiet them and to tune them out. Keeping busy is the best thing for me. I need to have books to read (I have a recovery book on my shopping list, The 8 Keys to Eating Disorder Recovery), I need to have crafts to do, I need to have movies to watch, I need to have people to socialize with.
One way that I love keeping busy is through volunteering at the mall with my local Kiwanis Club at their gift wrapping stand. No, I don’t need volunteer hours for school and no, I don’t get paid. It’s nice to do something selfless, especially at the holiday season.
Another thing is going to yoga/pilates. A local yoga studio offers “community” lessons, alternating yoga and pilates each Sunday. The only fee is simply a donation to a charity of the studio’s choice. I hadn’t gone to yoga in a while and man, when I got back into the studio it’s amazing. Being in a dim room with incense burning does wonders for my nerves. When I am in there, my worries disappear for an hour.
Keeping social is key to my recovery, I believe. If I begin to recluse myself, it would be harder for people to realize how I am struggling and if I were to slip back into the weight loss spiral. Also, I fear that if I secluded myself, people would think that I didn’t want to be their friend any longer and not feel the need to speak up if they saw me exhibiting dangerous behaviors.
To wrap things up, the holidays are tough. They always will be, but the important thing to do is put yourself first. Speak up and reach out to people. Be smart. You don’t have to have every single christmas cookie in the house. It’s okay to turn one down. If having cookies would cause you too much anxiety, just simply say “thank you, they look delicious but I’ll have one later.”
Put yourself first to stay happy, healthy and above all sane.