It’s officially Christmas season! There are pine trees on the top of every car you pass on the highway, holiday music playing in all the stores and the weather outside is frightful.
I love this time of year as much as any Who in Whoville!
In fact, I couldn’t find a single reason why anyone wouldn’t love the holidays until 2011. That was the year I was at the height of my eating disorder. I was a little over 90 pounds and on a 5’6’’ frame, I was far from healthy.
Every day leading up to Christmas I would collapse at the thought of having to cook, bake, eat, socialize and get out of bed to live another day.
Needless to say, Christmas of 2011 was a day filled with tears, endless anxiety, body shaming, skin grabbing, thigh measuring, and repulsive mirror reflections.
I was a WRECK and my family’s response didn’t help.
Don’t get me wrong, they did everything they could to help me make it through the day, but they just didn’t know how to properly help. Things they thought were loving actions were actually the things that tipped me over.
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My firsthand experience with Christmas while suffering with anorexia is why I’m writing this blog post.
I know my experience isn’t identical to someone else’s experience, but I can sure as hell hope to help at least one of you reading this.
If you’re someone living with an eating disorder, share this with your family. If you’re someone who knows your family member has an eating disorder, keep these tips in mind and share them with anyone else who will benefit from this free education.
The 8 Things You Need To Know This Christmas About Your Family Member Who’s Recovering From Anorexia:
Clothes should not be on your Christmas shopping list. Buying clothes - in any size - has the possibility of sending us into a downward spiral of endless negative thoughts.
Books on recovery should also not be on your Christmas shopping list. The only exception is if we are already actively seeking help and specifically asked for literature on the subject.
Please, for the love of God, don’t comment on how much or how little is on our plate. If we’re indulging, smile and radiate with excitement INTERNALLY. We don’t need to feel guilty or as if someone is monitoring what we are putting into our bodies. We do enough of that on our own.
If we don’t want to partake in what is normally a fun family activity, like baking or frosting cookies, please don’t make us do it. We have our reasons for not getting involved with food related activities and if you’re pressuring us into doing something, it may push us over the edge.
If we go to the bathroom after eating, do not, I repeat, do NOT ask if we’re okay. Sometimes we just have to pee and sometimes we just need a moment to collect ourselves - in peace and quiet. Not every bathroom trip is a journey to throw up the food we just ate. Trust us enough to let us go.
Do everything in your power to avoid talking about calories or how you need to start your diet tomorrow. Any conversation involving exercising off those extra cookies or whatnot has devastating consequences. Just enjoy your meal and don’t make comments about the ingredients. We all know we’re eating a few extra pounds of deliciousness - don’t bring it to the forefront of our minds, please.
I’m not sure if this one is as pressing for others as it is for me, but at the end of the night please don’t congratulate us for socializing and eating like everyone else. I get it - you take pride in how far we’ve come while recovering from this crippling eating disorder. The only problem is, when you remind us of how ‘normal’ we acted, it’s also a reminder that we’ve released control of our eating disorder habits, which unless your loved one is very far down the road to recovery, it can set someone in recovery ten steps back.
Last but not least. Remember that we want to love this time with our family as much as you and everyone else. Don’t treat us any differently than the way you treat the rest of the family. Just have endless love for us and that’s all we will ever need.
Please feel free to share any other advice you’ve gathered over the years during your recovery and share it in the comments below.
The holidays don’t have to be painful or torturous when you’re living with an eating disorder. You just need to properly prepare and sometimes preparation is giving your family a little list of to-do’s or don’t do’s.