The holiday period can be a tough time if you’re experiencing an eating disorder. Post-Christmas and New Years can be even more challenging. As you move past this holiday season, your inner critic may be louder than usual and expectations at an all-time high.
On top of this, you might be scrolling through social media and comparing your reality with someone’s highlight reel.
If you have been feeling overwhelmed, stressed, guilty or alone after the holidays this article is for you. We've put together some tips to help you turn this around and challenge your inner critic.
You survived a difficult time, and that should be celebrated. The holidays take us away from our daily routines and can create more pressure for us with the increase of social functions and food orientated events. For some, the holidays can also feel particularly lonely. Even with all the added complications and pressures, you prevailed. Full stop. Try to shift your focus, and rather than thinking about all the things that were difficult, think of what was enjoyable, and what you’re proud of…however small it may be. Reflect on how far you’ve come. Be proud of yourself, despite your struggle, you made it through. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, the reality is that you did and that should be celebrated.
Expectations are premeditated resentments.
Read that line again
Having expectations by nature sets us up for resentment if things don’t go the way we originally anticipated. Perhaps you expected the holidays to go a certain way, for you to feel or behave in a specific manner, for you to have reached a certain ‘point’ in recovery; and if they didn’t then you may be feeling like a failure. Take a moment to think about the expectation you set. Was it realistic? Did it allow for flexibility? Did it allow for growth and learning?
Sometimes the expectations we set are unrealistic and without realising it, we’re aiming for ‘perfection’. But we're humans and there is no such thing as a perfect human, right?
Recovery is fluid, and personal; not something to perfect. The creation of an expectation is really just a premeditated pressure. You didn’t fail. You aren’t weak. You did the best you could, and that is a success. So let go of the expectations of what you thought the holiday was meant to be like, and embrace what it was...a difficult period of time, that you managed to get through.
For 364 days we live our lives the best we can, and then all of a sudden on day 365 when the clock strikes midnight we're meant to have a list of goals and accomplishments that must be made in the days to follow. Why do we do this? The whole concept of ‘new year, new me’ sends the message that we aren’t currently good enough, that we should be striving to be something better. Yes, goals can be great to have, but what is also great is realising that you're already enough. Just as you are. If you want to implement change, consider why you are making this change and whether it is something you truly believe in or whether you feel pressured to have a resolution like everyone else? You're your own person – building a healthy mindset is a journey not a New Year’s Resolution, it takes time. So if people ask what your New Year’s resolution is, feel free to say ‘not having a New Year’s Resolution ’.
Ever notice yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media and before you know it an hour has gone by and you’re feeling terrible about yourself? Managing your social media can really help your mindset. Many of us have heard of ‘spring cleaning’, so just think of this as a ‘summer de-clutter.’ Here are some starting ideas:
-Unfollow pages that leave you feeling bad about yourself.
-Fill your feed with pages that inspire you and encourage you to think positively about yourself and the world.
-Turn notifications off. By doing so you'll remove the temptation to check your phone as soon as it buzzes!
-Switch screen time for journaling time before bed. Writing our thoughts and feelings down can help you let them go.
-Declutter your mind through meditation. At the end or beginning of each day, create peace in your mind by meditating, even if for just 10 minutes.
Maybe you experienced some form of set-back during the holiday period. Part of being human is having both good and bad days. You're not perfect, nor is anyone...because perfect does not exist. If you find that your eating behaviours seemed to change or fluctuate during this time, try not to dwell on it. The holiday period is hard, and you did the best you could at that time. Even if you think it wasn’t good enough or that you aren’t good enough…remember that is your eating disorder voice speaking to you. Don’t beat yourself up, recovery is a journey – there's no direct path. It has bumps along the way, and some bumps are bigger than others. If you did have a set-back, focus your energy on letting it go, and moving forward. You’re doing the best you can!
Have you ever noticed yourself saying phrases such as:
‘I really need to …’
‘I have to ….’
‘I shouldn’t have ….’
Says who? Majority of the time we’re the ones putting pressure on ourselves. Take out the ‘should have, have to, and need to’ in your sentences. These words place undue pressure on ourselves, and ultimately make us feel inadequate and guilty. When you find yourself falling into the loop of ‘I should have’ done this, or ‘now that I haven’t’ done that ‘I need to do this’…PAUSE. Take a deep breath. Let the thought pass over you without giving power to it.
Maybe you’re still thinking about the harsh comments your family made about your weight, or food intake over the holidays. Maybe your inner eating disorder voice is ridiculing you. Accept the apologies you maybe didn’t receive. Imagine you're holding a bouquet of balloons, and written on each one is a comment that made you feel bad. One by one, let it go and watch it fly into the sky – eventually making itself no longer visible. Acknowledge each and every comment or thought and then let them go.
As people get back into their routines, it’s likely they’re engaging in conversations about how their holiday was, what they did, etc. Don’t feel like you have to share if you don’t want to and don’t let yourself fall into the comparison trap. When you hear people talk about their post-holiday diets and how ‘naughty’ they were with their food and beverage consumption, let it in one ear and out the other. People often don’t realise how triggering these types of comments can be for others. Perhaps try to write down some of the things that you’re proud of and focus your energy more on gratitude.
THE TIP OF TIPS! If there was a hierarchy of tips, this would top it – so it’s our final thought for you. Your normal support systems may have been out of reach over the holiday period, which may have resulted in bottled feelings and left you feeling uncomfortable and alone. The holiday period without support is extremely challenging. So firstly, applaud your efforts in getting through this time on potentially more limited resourcing than you may be used to. As you get back to your ‘normal’ routine, make it a priority to reconnect with people you trust, and people who have been supportive during your recovery journey. If there is one New Year’s Resolution we can leave you with, it is to connect with humans who not only provide support, but leave you feeling at ease with who you are and where you’re heading. They’re your people.
If you need urgent assistance or support, please ring Lifeline on 13 11 14, which will be open throughout the holiday period.
By Michaela: "I'm a carer of a loved one with an eating disorder, only it wasn't until much recently that I even realised that to be my role. I wasn't exactly sure how to approach the subject, so I decided to write a letter."
Sometimes as our mind races, our thoughts can feel slightly out of control. Or we might feel overwhelmed by our eating disorder voice, self-criticism, or anxiety. When these emotions arise, we may not have the words to fully express what we’re feeling. Or maybe we don’t feel like talking at all. It can be helpful to take a moment, breath, and plug in – to an app.
Binge eating disorder is widely misunderstood, and considering it's the most common, it's about time we understood.