6 Ways I Honor My Recovery During the Holidays

Being in eating disorder recovery on a normal day isn’t easy, so add the holidays on top of that and you have yourself the perfect storm. But the holidays don’t have to be stormy sailing- they can be smoother than you think!

With the holiday season comes constant time spent with family, friends, coworkers, and food which can be extremely stressful and anxiety producing for someone in ED recovery. Over the last few months my therapist and I have developed some tactics that allow me to honor both my recovery and myself while still enjoying the holiday season. I hope that whether you’re recovering from an ED, chronic dieting, disordered eating, or are in recovery for something else my tips will help make the holidays that much more enjoyable and relaxed for you!

{I set boundaries}

Setting boundaries is one of the biggest things I’ve learned to implement in my daily life and make sure to pay special attention to during the holiday season. I have come to understand that I call the shots in my life and if going somewhere, talking to someone, or doing something could jeopardize my recovery- I set a healthy boundary around it.

For example- I make the conscious choice to not go to family members or friends houses where I know I’ll be triggered and fall prey to their own disordered thoughts and behaviors. Now- I understand that not everyone has the luxury of choosing to not spend time with their triggering family members or friends, so I’ve included some tips for those situations later on in this post! 🙂

Setting boundaries may mean choosing not to attend certain events, deciding what you will and won’t talk about in a group setting, determining how you’ll interact with certain people, etc. Setting boundaries also means that you may verbally let someone know that you have set a boundary or it may mean setting the boundary in your own mind- not telling anyone out loud what that boundary is. I tend to go with the latter because I’ve found it’s a bit awkward and sometimes damaging to others to tell them that I’ve set a boundary to not talk to them or go to their house. Although it’s best for me, some people have a hard time coming to terms with and understanding how triggering they are.

So say it aloud or keep it to yourself- that’s up to you- but set those boundaries to protect yourself. I’m always a fan of being proactive rather than reactive and setting boundaries is just that!

{I set time aside for self-care}

I engage in self-care on a regular basis but I really kick it into high gear during the holidays. For me, this means sleeping in, napping, spending all day in PJs, crocheting, blogging, cooking, eating takeout on my couch, journaling, watching countless hours of  Netflix and Hulu, talking to my best friends on FaceTime, taking walks at my local nature preserve (weather permitting 🙂 ), laughing, and reading .

The beautiful thing about self care is that it looks different for everyone- you could potentially relate to all or none of my favorite self care practices listed above. You’ll also notice that a lot of my self care practices don’t require me to leave my house- that’s why I like them so much! 🙂 I’m a homebody at heart so I prefer to spend a lot of time engaging in self care from the comfort of my  home- it may be the exact opposite for you and that’s ok!

Actually, one of the main reasons I love spending so much time at home, especially during the holidays, is not only because my holiday decorations make it feel extra warm and cozy, but because I’ve made my home into a sanctuary space! Pretty much it makes me feel all the warm fuzzies 24/7 and there’s nothing better than that!

{I walk away if I need to}

Repeat after me, YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO STAY IN A CONVERSATION OR GROUP IF YOU DON’T WANT TO! Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way we can continue 🙂

In addition to setting boundaries with the people I’m with and the events I attend, I also don’t hesitate to walk away from conversations or situations I find myself in.

For example, if I’m in a group and they start talking about their latest diet, the foods they’re not eating, their weight loss plan for the new year, or how they heard X food is “bad” for you, I simply walk away. I don’t even excuse myself- I just turn around and leave that group or conversation. Some people may find that “rude” or “improper” but you know what? I don’t care. My recovery is wayyyyyy more important than being subjected to someone’s disordered thoughts.

Not going to lie, this one took me awhile to master because I have the biggest guilty conscience of anyone I know (I used to feel sooooo horrible if I left a conversation because I thought I would be hurting someone’s feelings)- but to be honest, although I care about people and their feelings, if they get upset because I walked away from their disordered and triggering conversation that’s fine and if they have a problem with it, they are more than welcome to talk to me about it.

Remember- Walking away from a conversation or situation does not make you a bad or mean person. By walking away you are taking care of yourself- you are honoring your recovery- and that’s the best thing you can do!

{I don’t answer questions I’m not comfortable with}

It seems that when people find out you had an ED they automatically want to ask you a million questions and I don’t blame them for that- but I don’t always feel comfortable answering them.

First off, I don’t ever want to give someone a “how to” guide on how to have an ED- so I never, ever disclose any of my behaviors to anyone. If they ask me which ED I battled, sometimes I share, sometimes I don’t.

Because I struggled with an ED that’s fairly new and not known by a good majority of the population it’s not as easy as just saying I had X ED because people always ask me, “what is that?” or “what does that mean?”. Which, again, I don’t fault them for, but explaining my ED (or any ED for that matter) to people is quite labor intensive, confusing, and takes a lot out of me, so I steer clear of that question. 

I also remind myself that it’s not my job to educate anyone and if they’re curious enough about ED’s they can easily do a Google search or read my blog.

As you know from reading my blog, I talk very openly about my ED (cc: every blog post I’ve written), but when I’m talking to someone in real life either one-on-one or in a group, it’s more awkward and difficult for me. Like I’ve written about before- I’m not ashamed to admit I struggled with and am recovering from an ED, but talking about my ED at a holiday party is the last thing I want to do. 

When I’m at a holiday party/gathering I want to enjoy the time with the people around me- not rehashing things from my past.

I’m sure anyone who has had any type of negative experience in their life will agree with me. If someone wanted to chat with you for hours about your favorite fish dying, that probably wouldn’t be the most ideal situation for you.

Moral of the story- you are not obligated to answer anyone’s questions. Whether the questions are about your ED, your love life, or your life plans- you have the right to say “I appreciate your curiosity, but that’s not something I want to talk about right now.” 

{I don’t feel the need to explain myself}

When it comes to sharing the principles of Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size with people I’ve come to understand that not everyone is as openminded and understanding as I would like them to be. I’ve been put in too many situations where I’ve talked until I’m blue in the face to people who won’t ever understand. So I don’t do that anymore.

I don’t ever need to justify or explain to anyone why I eat what I eat, move the way I move, or live the way I live. If they want to have a genuinely nice conversation about my beliefs and the science supporting them, I’m more than happy to do that. But if they’re just going to accuse me of things or try to “school” me, I won’t even entertain that conversation.

Although I would love to get on my soapbox and preach about Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size to everyone- it would be pointless because like the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

I’ve come to the realization that I don’t have to explain myself to anyone because not everyone will understand or accept what I believe and that’s ok- that’s what makes us human, we all think differently.

I could seriously talk forever about how Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size changed my life- but people who aren’t ready or don’t want to hear it won’t benefit from the information in the first place. I’m 100% welcome and encourage people to ask questions about the topics- but I won’t just sit there, unsolicited, talking at them for hours trying to explain myself and why I believe in the things I do.

And that doesn’t just go for IE an HAES. It can be applied to pretty much any topic! You shouldn’t have to explain and justify to someone what political party you are or aren’t apart of, what major you chose in college, the job you have, what you’re wearing, where you live, or what car you drive- plain and simple, you should never be expected to explain anything to anyone no matter how much it does or doesn’t align with what they believe.

{I go to therapy}

If I know I’m going to be around triggering friends and family members or be put in triggering situations, you better believe I strategically schedule therapy around the time I have to experience those things. I find it helpful because the strategies and ideas my therapist and I discuss are fresh in my mind- even though I take notes during therapy (yes I’m one of those people 🙂 ) it’s good to have the session be fresh in my mind. Like I mentioned earlier- I’d rather be proactive rather than reactive!

That’s all she wrote…

Never forget that you are the captain of your own ship. You decide where your ship sails and you call the shots. Just because it’s the holidays or because you only see these people once a year doesn’t mean you owe them anything. You are worth too much to risk your recovery just to appease some random family member, friend, co-worker, or stranger.

How do you honor your recovery during the holidays?

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