Not Always Merry & Bright
TW: Eating Disorders
It's Christmas Eve. I'm back home from Los Angeles and have spent the past two days laying on the sofa with my dogs Maui and Reggie. I've seen a lot more mental health posts pop up on Instagram. It makes it comforting knowing I'm not alone, but it doesn't make it any easier. This holiday doesn't seem to be as stressful as the years past mainly due to the fact that my mental space isn't engulfed in the tropes of an eating disorder like it has been for a decade. The holidays don't come easy for me. They never have. I never seem to react to a gift the way everyone wants me to. When I was little I hated getting dressed up in tights and dresses. I still hate doing this, I just don't anymore lol.
The holidays can be a filled with my favorite things: Family. Food. Fun? And all of these things can also bring out my least favorite emotions.
I LOVE the holidays. I mean, I love Christmas more than the Grinch loved to steal it, ya know? More than Hermey wanted to be a dentist. More than all the love in every Hallmark Christmas movie. Yet, despite all of this excitement, the holidays can (and do) bring me a lot of anxiety.
Let's start with the most relatable: Everyone wants to know what you're up to. I mean, you all probably haven't seen each other in a bit. That's normal. Yet, how come every time someone asks "What are your plans after college?" it sounds like they're saying "I'm asking you a question and then I am going to openly pick apart your answer. Also, we all hate you."
Ok, sometimes, depending on the person, they do pick apart your answers. And your political viewpoints. All of this though, has become manageable because of one thing: cousins. Praise the lord.
I've realized no one really knows what they're doing with their lives so when they ask you when you don't know what you're doing with yours, just go take a shot of fireball. Who cares.
But, let's be real. I'm not writing this blog to complain about people asking me what my next steps are. Dude, I don't know. I write a weekly blog once a month. #WOONANOO.
Holidays cause a lot of stress. So do eating disorders. Combine them? It's robot Santa taking over for Tim Allen while he has to find a wife. AKA a disaster.
This isn't just relevant for people with EDs or recovering from EDs. It's for people with body image issues and chronic dieters. It's for family members who may not have these issues, too. Let's be sensitive.
I am going to add tips into this ED = people with Eating Disorders, D = people with diet mentality, and F = family.
Holidays & Eating Disorders
When I was heavy in my eating disorders, the holidays were miserable. Constant thoughts of should I indulge? or does anyone think I'm eating too much? too little? Do my cousins think I'm fatter this year? Are they all going to talk about it when I leave? Not only was I worried about what other people were thinking. I was also just coping. Having EDs are torture on their own. Having them during Christmas? I'd rather get coal. Seriously. My depression was darker than that. Even when you're actively in recovery, your mind is filled with worried thoughts: Is this a binge? Is this intuitive eating? Will this set me back? Should I tell someone?
A lot of times I thought I should tell someone. Just one person. She'll help me if I'm bingeing or if I'm restricting. And then my ED voice would come in...why would you wan to give up your ED now? After all this time, just keep it through the holidays. I knew if I told someone, I was committing to recovery and that was really scary - to give something I had lived with for nearly a decade.
Tip 1 (ED/D): Accept overeating.
Yep, you can do it. It is not a weakness to eat more than one cookie. You won't get fat. Your training won't go to waste. If you go in to the holidays with an anti-restrictive attitude you are less likely to binge.
With eating disorders comes depression. My cousins make me happy AF and my aunts literally give me the same reassurance and esteem as they would a stranger who just climbed Everest. But again, that doesn't cure my depression. Holidays are supposed to be filled with excitement and enthusiasm. In general, I'm not a very enthusiastic person. I always think people should know this by now, yet I always feel like I'm disappointing them when I don't dive in, wide armed, ready for an unnecessary hug. I remember being so stressed out leading up to the holidays, everyone looking at me in my outfit, my energy levels weren't even fast enough for a sloth.
Tip 2 (F): Do not say things like "Cheer up" or "It wouldn't hurt to smile."
There is a 100% chance the person will not do either of these things. This applies for all aspects of life. It's hurtful. It sounds like you're saying the person isn't good enough. And when you have an eating disorder, it sounds like you're saying that person's looks are displeasing to you. If you think something is wrong, ask them separately.
Tip 3 (F): Do not comment on how anyone looks.
This isn't just for people who you know have an eating disorder. Really, since diet culture and body image is so prevalent in today's society, we should stop commenting on looks all together. I remember coming to one holiday having lost a lot of weight and someone told me. They weren't being evil or malicious, but for a person who was constantly trying to lose weight, this reassured me that my eating disorder was working. On the other hand, other holidays if I didn't get the same "compliment" then I thought I looked drastically different and no one wanted to tell me.
Tip 4 (ED/D): Fat is not an insult.
Let's say it again. Fat. Is. Not. An. Insult. It's a description. Usually an unnecessary one. We often hear people call themselves fat as a way to acknowledge to everyone they are no longer skinny. This is so sad, yet I've heard it as a little kid, and said it too. Adults, as soon as you comment on your body, any kid around is absorbing what you say. Fat is bad. Food is bad. This is the type of commentary that leads to eating disorders at a young age.
Tip 5 (ED): Go in with a game plan.
I didn't include dieters in this one. For dieters, I think you should just listen to your body and eat intuitively. One food can't make you fat. And remember, fat is not an insult. But for those with eating disorders, come up with a plan. Maybe ask your relative what's on the menu. If you're comfortable, tell someone you're struggling. Part of my ED recovery was literally re-learning how to eat. Having game plans for stressful situations really helped me. When in doubt, take 10 deep breaths.
Tip 6 (ED/D): Remember Santa is fat.
Yeah, this is the holiday during which we obsess over an old fat white man. Santa is fat. Everyone loves Santa. More room for cookies.
Tip 7: WOONANOO
This is for everyone. Embrace #WOONANOO which means "I'm OK with me." Be OK with you. A lot of people suffer because of diet culture. Most likely, what they're saying to you is a reflection of themselves and how diet culture has made them feel (Seriously, fuck you diet culture).
Don't know where you're doing to college? WOONANOO.
Struggling with depression? WOONANOO.
Have an eggnog stain on your shirt? WOONANOO.
Ate more than expected? WOONANOO.
Didn't spend as much as others did on you? WOONANOO.
Don't have the strength to say woonanoo yourself? That's ok. It took me 12 years to get here. I still have work to do. I am far from OK, but I'm OK with me.
Lastly, it's never too late to get help. I know this article was focused on eating disorders, but no matter what the issue, you're not alone. And if all you can do is make it to tomorrow, then just make it to tomorrow with whatever strength you have.
We need you here.
P.S. Yes, I'm fatter this year. WOONANOO.