How I Cope with Disordered Eating at Christmas
I had been ‘good’ with food for days. My choices had been exceptionally clean and controlled. With an iron rod of discipline I had rejected the mince pies and mulled wine at the Christmas party yesterday.
I was well on track for a Christmas holiday marked with restrained eating. This time, I would achieve the perfect weight beautifully timed to accompany the festivities.
Christmas morning came with the arrival of exquisitely wrapped presents and sparkling champagne; accompanied with the pressures of family expectations and mountains of food.
Suddenly, the self-control of the last few weeks felt smothering and restrictive. Surely one day wouldn’t matter. I bartered with myself and decided to have just a couple of the very delicious chocolates and a few glasses of wine. It was 9.30am.
After weeks of denial, the first few bites of chocolate tasted heavenly. Endorphins happily buzzed speedily through my body and the blood sugar rush was elating. Momentary bliss; but oh dear, when you have a disordered relationship with food, one incidence of breaking the rules of control often brings a landslide of eating chaos as a backlash against weeks of deprivation. My brakes were not working to stop the inevitable.
The rest of Christmas day was then a fog of hazy dissociation. Conversations distracted by my wanting to eat more and then secretly doing so, followed by the punishing guilt of what I had eaten already. The binge was out in full force, whilst others were blissfully unaware.
Christmas lunch came and went with no real hunger feelings remaining but a desperate attempt to go through the motions of appearing ‘normal’ around food.
When you have disordered eating, your weight and shape become all consuming barometers of your self-worth. Rules around food dominate your thoughts 24/7 as you desperately attempt to feel better by gaining control of eating.
These harsh rules are simply unsustainable and waiting to be broken with all the predictable anxiety, guilt and disgust that follow. Whatever your shape and size you are not immune to experiencing this predicament.
I am pleased to say that my eating problem days are well behind me and I make concerted efforts to keep it this way. So, what strategies can be put in place at Christmas to stay on track and in a happy relationship with food?
5 Christmas food coping strategies
1. Avoid getting over-hungry
This leaves you vulnerable to overeating when you are presented with the lavish buffet and endless treats. Instead, make deliberate decisions to eat little and often throughout the day to keep blood sugar stable, choosing foods that are sustaining and satisfying. Include slow release carbohydrates, protein and good fats at your mealtimes.
2. Be balanced
Permit all foods into your eating repertoire. Banning foods brings on feelings of deprivation. So, if you desire the Christmas pudding, make a conscious choice to eat it and celebrate. Sit down at a table and eat slowly whilst savouring every delicious mouthful. Eating secretly at the cupboard door only fuels self-loathing and robs you of the feeling of eating satisfaction.
3. Look after your body
Value it highly by ensuring that you get enough sleep and rest throughout the holiday period. You don’t have to go to every party. Give yourself permission to set yourself boundaries to maximise self-care.
4. Say 'no'
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to food that you don’t want. You do not have to feel obliged to eat what others are serving just to join in. When you recognise your own trigger situations, you can then focus on supporting yourself with personal eating goals.
5. Be careful of alcohol
Alcohol can be a wonderful pleasure and reliever of anxiety. Remember, it can also bring on feelings of low mood and depression. It might also generate cravings which can exacerbate ‘out of control’ feelings about food. Think about your alcohol intake and how you can support yourself best.
Christmas can be stressful. Acknowledge this openly and without judgement. You are not alone in experiencing this.
You can make a plan to help manage your relationship with food over the holidays to support you in coping.
As you move into the new year, make a resolution to begin creating a more peaceful relationship with food and your body. Opting for dietary rules and regulations will likely lead you back full-circuit to ‘out of control’ eating.