Christmas Time and Eating Disorders

Sunday 20 November

TRIGGER WARNING: EATING DISORDERS.

The things I will cover in this blog post:

  • Dealing with food guilt
  • Feelings of overwhelm, fear and anxiety around food
  • Wanting to restrict and overcompensate
  • Christmas parties and family
  • How to help those that struggle
  • Changing your view on Christmas: from fear to enjoyment

We all know that Christmas can be a struggling time for people who have eating disorders or a bad relationship with food. To an extent, a good proportion of us struggles with food guilt after Christmas has gone by.  

It’s almost impossible to avoid food at this time of the year. There are more snacks and festive treats on the table, more occasions where you’re surrounded by food at parties or gatherings. You might have a couple Christmas dinners in the week around Christmas, too. This can be really hard to deal with, and food guilt can easily creep in and scare us out of “indulging” in this time.

If you also wrestle with food guilt and anxiety, you are not alone. For the last three years, as you know, I have struggled with all of this. I have posted lots of material on this too. Today, I want to put out a reminder that you are not alone and there is support around you. It can be easy to give in to the desire to restrict and not allow yourself to join in on the festivities and isolate yourself. However, you don’t have to feel like this.

Christmas is one of the times of the year where food is a main focus. Heck, food is a main focus in everyone’s lives at all times of the year! Food is an essential part of our lives (without it we’d die!). It is oftentimes the topic of conversation. “What have you got for lunch?” in the workplace. “Have you tried X from Aldi? It’s incredible,” at home. “We need a catch-up. Shall we go out for dinner this week?” from your friends. Our culture is fixated on the concept of food. This can create so many problems for so many people.

One way to deal with this is simply to accept it. Food will always play a huge part in our lives and conversation. For a long time, I was triggered by people talking about food, especially at the dinner table when we already had a meal in front of us. I wanted to ban the conversation of food. Now, I realise that this is impossible. There’s of course other topics of conversation, like politics, how was your day, philosophy, any academic discipline, any hobby. But it will always come back to food. If you learn to accept that this is the case, as hard as it seems, it will become easier to deal with this trigger and anxiety that evolves in a situation where food is the main topic of discussion.

For us who struggle with our relationship with food, food is always on our minds. It’s suffocating at times. At Christmas it’s even worse. We battle with wanting to indulge in the treats available so readily to us, and the intrusive thoughts that food is bad and if you start eating you won’t stop, or you’ll gain “too much” weight. There’s no easy way to cope with this, let me tell you that. However, I’m learning to allow myself to enjoy these times because they happen once a year!

This Christmas will be the first one in years that I have this mindset. I am so excited for everything I can do at this point. Simply because I allow myself to do it and I have switched the mindset around food. Food is a tremendous part of our culture, as I have said. We need to start changing our attitudes around it. It is a tool of socialising, having fun with friends, hosting family gatherings. Food is an amazing way of being able to do all these things. That’s the attitude I now have. Dinner dates and snacks on the sofa at night are now an essential part of my life as I no longer feel guilt in doing these things. I view this as allowing me to enjoy time spent with friends and family. As we all should.

So, this year, enjoy those chocolates, enjoy the glasses of wine, enjoy the days where 10K steps are not in your reach. Hungover days with the family after Christmas or new year. If you are able to achieve this at Christmas time, the rest of the year will be so much easier. Don’t restrict yourself from the deliciousness that is Christmas food. My favourite thing at the moment is minced pies and all the festive hot drinks (you’ve got to try the Cinnamon latte from Nero, it’s insane.) There’s no guilt, there’s no restriction. If I gain weight, so be it. That weight shows that I have enjoyed my life. When I’m 80 years old, I won’t remember what I ate on this day, nor will I care that I “lost my abs” or had more than 5% body fat. I won’t care that I didn’t have a thigh gap or that I had a double chin when I laugh.

Food and weight, although a common topic of conversation, don’t matter. We’ve grown up in a society where we’re taught to lose weight and never gain it. Let’s start on this journey together to change the narrative. Enjoy food, enjoy “unnecessary calories”. Don’t let it get to you. Your friends and family don’t care if you gain weight. If anything, you’ll look healthier. This is something that I have been told over and over again by someone very special to me, and something which I hold onto whenever feelings of anxiety or guilt seep through. I don’t listen to those intrusive thoughts anymore, and neither should you. Work on your relationship with food, trust the process, and enjoy the change and growth you will go through.

You’ve got this!

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