Well, it is that time of year: the holidays. I know that for people with eating disorders this can seem like the most terrible time of year. Whether you are facing holiday get-togethers with family, friends or co-workers or are just tempted by the food that is normally around, there is no doubt about it: if you have food issues these times will be hard. The thing I want to say about this is that perhaps instead of doing the same things that you have been doing all year long and for some of us, year after year, perhaps we can use this time to step back and reflect upon how eating disorders have been harming us and make our first bold move towards recovery. For each person this will mean doing something different, but for each person who reads this I wish that I could convince you that you are worth more than you think; that you do deserve a life without an eating disorder and you can live in an extraordinary way without an eating disorder.
I know I don’t have to recount how hard the holidays are, but for people who just don’t understand, I’m going to write a little bit about it here. The next time you go to a party or a gathering with friends or family, you should be aware that maybe not everyone is able to enjoy the event for what it is. Anywhere there is food there will be an issue. Some people deal with it by not eating anything, others deal with it by eating “normally” and then compensating with purging or exercise when they are alone, others will “binge” at the party or eat “normally” at the party and then continue the binge at home and then secretly purge and/or exercise and/or use laxatives or other means to rid themselves of what they have eaten. Other people will feel guilt with every bite of delicious food that they eat. Maybe they will eat too much or too little, but the point is that they will not just casually enjoy the meal, but instead will beat themselves up for eating anything or the most delicious things or whatever.
It is seriously like this secret world that goes on inside peoples’ heads. But let me also tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to feel guilty. You don’t have to be ashamed. There are people in this world who actually enjoy food, enjoy eating and enjoy getting together with people to celebrate with food! I know, you out there reading this with your computer strapped to your stairmaster could hardly believe that there is any place where this is true.
I cannot tell you how to get to this place. I can’t even tell you for sure if I am there exactly, but I can drop you hints about the journey. I know it is possible to not be obsessed with food. I know I am fat and surely you can’t look up to me, but I have always been fat in varying degrees, but I am no longer actively bulimic and that is something, because for years I could not say that.
Anyway, this is about what you can do during the holidays. You can make your first bold move, like I said. And what does that mean? Well, for everyone it is different. For Kelly it may mean realizing and admitting to herself that she has an eating disorder. For Carl it may mean accepting the fact that he needs to be hospitalized. For Venus it may mean coming clean to her best friend that she has been hiding this eating disorder for years. For Erica it might mean letting go and reaching out for actual treatment for the first time. It will be different for everybody, but the key aspect is acceptance that you have a problem and being willing to act on it to help yourself get better. To reach out to someone—a friend, a counselor, the hospital, a family member, anyone—to get on a path to helping yourself.
And even if you are still steeped in shame and could never tell a soul, then at least be real with yourself. Begin to tell yourself that you are worth way more than this disease could ever give you. It has to start somewhere and on some level. And, I hope that you would be willing to reach out to someone for help, because it is hard to go it alone.
So, instead of spending this holiday season avoiding food situations, avoiding food, starving, bingeing and purging and exercising until you have no breath left inside of you: stop. Don’t wait until January to begin. Start now. Don’t start after your next binge is over. Don’t start after you purge one more time, because there will never be a LAST time until you just bring it all to a halt. Instead of telling yourself that you aren’t going to eat EVER, realize that to sustain your life you will have to eat every single day!!! You won’t even get away with eating once per day. You will have to keep feeding yourself throughout the day. Start imagining eating EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! It is okay. It won’t kill you, but it will save your life.
So, try giving yourself this gift of compassion and self-acceptance. Give yourself permission to treat yourself with kindness by nurturing your body and feeding it. Stop hurting yourself and start being kind to yourself. Lavish yourself. Stop thinking you deserve to be in pain and suffering. You don’t deserve it. Make the holidays YOUR time to celebrate too! Celebrate becoming you. Celebrate living! Celebrate your life!
I am sure this all sounds cheesy and just fine for OTHER people. But seriously, what have you got to lose? What is wrong with loving your body and yourself? What is wrong with wanting to make sure you get fed and you don’t throw it up or exercise it all off?
Okay, I know if anyone out there is reading this and can relate…well, I know it will be tough to get through to you. If you think I am wrong, email me. Leave a comment or something. If you want to tell me that YOU are NOT worth it, you’ll have to convince me! I’m pretty hard to convince of stuff too, so have your case prepared well. Why do you not deserve to live a life free from food issues? Let me know.
You do deserve better, don’t you? So, go ahead, make your first bold move. Make an ass of yourself if you have to. It is okay. No one will think you are making an ass of yourself. They will know you are brave.
Blah blah blah. I know I’m rambling a lot. Just remember to make this YOUR holiday. You deserve it and so do I. Don’t wait to be good to yourself. Use this time to come clean. It is okay. Life is so much better on this side, you can’t even imagine!