10 Tips to Take the Holidays Back from Ed
1. Choose a Go-To Support Person. For each holiday celebration, select a designated person for support and accountability. Choose someone who is willing, available, and, if possible, actually attending the event. Teach this person the do’s and don’ts of support and discuss things-that-might-happen scenarios—explaining what kind of response would be most helpful to you in each situation.
2. Carry Support with You. Program other key support people into your phone—set them up as easy-to-access favorite contacts. In moments of distress, make a call. For extra long events, be sure to bring your cell phone charger! The Tenth Anniversary Edition of Life Without Ed suggests:
“If picking up the phone to make a support call is sometimes too difficult for you, maybe you can at least send a short text—like ‘SOS’ or even ‘Ed.’ Tell your support team ahead of time what your distress signal text might say, and let them know helpful ways to respond.”
3. Stop and Breathe. Practice mindfulness by paying attention to all five senses—see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the joys of the season. Meditate—even for just a few minutes—before attending holiday gatherings.
4. Facing the Food. Ed will try to make food a big deal; don’t let him. The truth is that holiday food is often the same, so you can easily plan ahead by consulting with your dietitian or a trusted support person. If you don’t know what is going to be served, consider asking beforehand. At the meal, you might even ask a support person to prepare a plate for you. For extra accountability, text a photo of your plate—before and after eating—to someone on your support team. Ask your friends and family not to comment about what you are eating.
5. Plan Something Special Beyond the Food. For many people, including those without eating disorders, food can become the focus of holiday gatherings. While it is normal and healthy to enjoy the festive meals, it can also be important to plan something to look forward to that doesn’t include turkey or stuffing. As I wrote about in Goodbye Ed, Hello Me, add fun to your schedule. Play a board game, watch a movie, or go on a walk.
6. Increase Support. The busyness of the holidays might lead you to want to cancel some therapy sessions. But the added pressure actually means that you need to beef up your support. Add to; don’t take away. Get creative. Adding support doesn’t necessarily mean a big time commitment. For instance, you can listen to recovery podcasts when driving to and from holiday events. Use apps like “Rise Up + Recover” and “Recovery Record” to send yourself positive affirmations during holiday gatherings.
7. Address Body Image Upfront. When I was in early recovery from my eating disorder, I asked my friends and family not to make comments about my appearance. I clarified, “Please don’t even say that I look ‘great’ or ‘healthy.’” In an effort to educate your friends and family about how you experience negative body image, consider showing them the ambiguous thin or large woman pictured below from my latest book, Almost Anorexic.
8. Celebrate Small Victories. If you conquer a food fear at a holiday gathering, share the news with your support team. To some friends and family, eating a slice of apple pie might not seem like a big deal, but, to you, it surely can be a sign of courage. Celebrate with people who understand.
9. Create an Emergency 911 Card. As described in Life Without Ed, make a list of time-tested relapse prevention tips. Keep this list with you at all times. Consider typing your emergency 911 card into your smart phone as a note. Ed thrives on forgetfulness. Be a step ahead of him.
10. Remember the Meaning. Despite what Ed may tell you, the holidays were not created as a way to upset people in recovery. What does each holiday truly mean to you? Practice gratitude. Laugh.
To read this entire blog post, which includes additional holiday resources for PTSD, addiction, as well as depression, click here. A special thanks to those on my Facebook page who contributed ideas to this post.
Passing the Recovery Baton
Recovering from an eating disorder takes a team. This topic was thoroughly explored at the Friends and Family Kick-Off Dinner during the National Eating Disorders Association Conference in San Antonio. Prior to the family panel discussion at the dinner, I was honored to deliver opening remarks. Click the image below to watch.