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  • Writer's pictureEmma Carpenter

Christmas and my eating disorder

How do I get through the Christmas Period without relapsing.

Christmas time was always the hardest time of the year for me when I was in the mix of Anorexia. Christmas is all about family time, presents but for me it was a time that was focused around food and routine...well it went out the window. I used to hate eating infront of my parents let alone the rest of my family.

I remember one year I got weighed just after Christmas and I had lost weight. The doctor turned to me and was like "who looses weight over Christmas?" I took this as a huge complement as I managed to loose weight and the doctors thought it wasn't possible, well my eating disorder thrived on this. Nearly 90% of people who are recovering from an eating disorder will find Christmas extremely triggering and may also relapse.

Christmas has always been my favourite time of the year, advents, food, presents, family and being off school. However when my eating disorder crept in I was terrified of Christmas. I wouldn't allow myself an advent. I would be terrified of having a hot meal at lunchtime as that was for an evening meal. Breakfast was always late and different, chocolate boxes that I used to help myself too, I was now scared of and overall Christmas Day and Boxing Day was overwhelming. I was glad when the new year came.

I get asked a lot by people and clients how did you get through Christmas and how did you stop yourself relapsing. My answer was "The first 8 years of recovery I didn't want to get better so therefore I let the anorexia win at Christmas, the last 2 years of recovery the fight to beat the illness kicked in and I sat down and prepared for Christmas with my mum before the big day came about." So if you're reading this and are in the mindset of beating your eating disorder but terrified of Christmas, here are my 5 top tips for coping with the festive season.

  1. Prepare early. In November sit down and have a plan written out on each meal you willl be having so you can prepare yourself and have the tools ready if anxiety or the eating disorder tries to creep in.

  2. Try and keep your routine as ' Normal' as possible. Until you are 'recovered' from your eating disorder meal plans should still be at specific times and your family will understand that this is needed for you not to relapse.

  3. Go out for a family walk, on the big day if things become overwhelming go for a walk. This can calm your head you can refocus on what is needed for the rest of the day.

  4. Having your tools and coping strategies ready as there will be parts of the day where you will feel overwhelmed but have them on hand so you can cool down those thoughts.

  5. Lastly keep busy, get involved with the cooking, get involved with the family games, dont allow yourself to just sit there and be left to your own thoughts.

So breaking down into these 5 easy steps you can get yourself through the festive period without going into a full blown meltdown or relapsing. By preparing early you can get your mindset ready so you are not getting everything thrown at you last minute. You can prepare for the meal changes, prepare what you are going to eat and your coping strategies. The saying fail to prepare. Prepare to fail is very true especially in this case. For the first few Christmas's in recovery your family or loved ones will understand that routine is key and you need to try and keep it as Normal as possible. Routine is a key aspect in recovery. Walking is always good for clearing your head, gets you away from the situation and gives your brain chance to cool down those thoughts and then when you go back in your house you will be ready to fight again. I talk about your 'toolkit' a lot in my blogs, your toolkit will come in handy in the Christmas periods, as you anxiety and thoughts will be heightened so having them ready if you do have a 'wobble' is good so its stems away from becoming overwhelmed. Lastly keeping busy. I am my own worst enemy when I am left to my own thoughts for too long. So at Christmas time make sure to keep busy and to enjoy yourself. I am a strong believer in your brain can be your most powerful tool but also your most detrimental.

Remember before your eating disorder you would of loved Christmas, well I did. Your eating disorder has taken a lot from you, dont allow it to take away the fun of Christmas too. You can learn to love Christmas again as now Christmas is once again the best time of year for me. And instead of Chococlate advents I have Gin advents... perks of being an adult haha! You need to use your tools and these steps to help you get through Christmas, stop relapsing and eventually have your life back to enjoy Christmas as it is.

Now on every blog I like to leave you with a few questions. What do you think of Christmas? Has your eating disorder made you scared of Christmas? Do you become overwhelmed? Do you have other strategies on how to get through Christmas? But remember guys 'Let's keep it real.'

5.Cooling down thoughts
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4.Anxiety hierarchy
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2.Daily focus planner
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