Although it wasn’t a typical Halloween this year due to Covid-19, I had an absolute blast with my family.
- I am free from counting every calorie that enters my body.
- I am free from the fear of candy.
- I am free from forcing myself to work out after eating sweets.
- I am free.
My husband, son and I dressed up as a biker gang. We enjoyed the evening at my parent’s house.
We had pizza. We had chocolate. And, I did not hate myself for it.
In fact, I didn’t think anything about it besides fueling my body with energy and enjoying the different textures.
I was in the moment –
Watching my son belly laugh with my sister.
Watching my son point and babble at the birdies outside.
Watching my son crawl up the stairs.
After the day was over, I sat on my couch reflecting on how far I have come. Holidays were always an immensely stressful time for myself, and as a result, my family, who had to witness me struggle at a much more intense level.
When I struggled with my eating disorder, I felt completely out of control around anything sweet – in the stores, at friend’s apartments, at my parent’s house.
The post-holiday candy sales at stores, such as Walgreens and CVS, were extremely triggering.
I would rotate the stores I went to because I was embarrassed with how often I frequented them.
I had employees comment on the amount of candy and desserts I would buy.
My shame was overwhelming.
I always had a ready answer as to why I was buying so much “junk.”
“It is girl’s night.”
My eating disorder cycled from bingeing and purging episodes to restricting.
I vividly remember Halloween the year of Hurricane Sandy. We had no power. I sat by the fire place eating raw veggies. I allowed myself to have one fun-sized piece of candy.
The mental torture was horrible.
I remember freaking out because I couldn’t go on the treadmill since the power was out. I made sure I was constantly on my feet, walking around the house.
I could see the sadness in my mother’s eyes. I felt horrible, but I couldn’t stop my behaviors. I just could not eat “normal.”
I missed many holidays with my family because I was too scared to be around all of the food. I made up excuses.
I missed a few Halloweens, Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays, etc. because I was either in inpatient or residential treatment.
I was devastated to be away from my family, but I did not trust myself alone.
I was too sick.
Those were very lonely years.
It breaks my heart to reflect back and see the pain I caused my family. I never meant to hurt them, but that is what happens with addiction.
How Were My First Holidays In Recovery?
I will not sit here and sugarcoat it.
It was hell.
I obsessed over everything I did or did not eat.
The last day I purged was November 13th, 2014. Thanksgiving was right around the corner. I remember eating pie and forcing myself to “sit with it,” instead of throw it up.
I literally wanted to die. I know it sounds dramatic, but to me it was very real. I successfully kept the pie down, but not without obsessing over it for the next several days.
In the beginning of my recovery, I still struggled with restriction after episodes of overeating and not purging. However, overtime I was able to overeat and continue with my meal plan the next day – restriction free. This took a lot of time and practice though.
I did not trust my body.
I was convinced that any amount of food over my meal plan would make me gain weight.
I had to avoid the scale for several years.
Any time I was weighed by my dietician, she did a blind weight. A blind weight is when you are not told how much you weigh.
My first Christmas without bingeing and purging was very scary.
I remember eating pasta and having dessert. It took an extreme amount of effort for me to not walk into the bathroom to purge. The days following were full of obsessing, but I got through it. One.day.at.a.time.
Tips For The Holiday Season When Struggling With An Eating Disorder
I think the most effective tip I can suggest is:
- Avoid restriction at all costs. I know this is easier said then done. However, attempting to “save” calories for a holiday meal can be a fast track to bingeing.
If you are on a meal plan, just follow it like it is a typical day. If you eat more on the holiday, let it go.
LET IT GO.
It is okay. I promise you.
I know your eating disorder will be screaming at you, but your body will not blow up.
You have to start trusting your body. A little extra food here and there is not going to harm you.
- If there are certain foods that are very triggering, talk to your family and/or friends and see if they can avoid that food for the holiday.
I do not always recommend avoiding trigger foods; however, if you are in a very vulnerable place, I think it is best to avoid it until you are in a more stable place of recovery.
Don’t test yourself too much too soon.
It is okay to ask for help.
- Take time for yourself to regroup if needed.
The holidays can be a difficult time for anyone, regardless if you have an eating disorder or not. If you feel overwhelmed, it is okay to remove yourself from the setting.
Stand outside in the fresh air.
Go sit in your car for a few minutes if you need to.
Remind yourself that you are going to be alright.
- Be kind to yourself. You did not develop an eating disorder overnight and you will not get rid of it overnight either.
Allow yourself to recognize that the holidays may be tough. Do not beat yourself up over it. I can’t emphasize it enough – It will take time.
Each holiday that you get under your belt in recovery will get easier.
I thoroughly enjoy the holidays now.
I love being with my family.
I love the festive foods.
I love the decorations.
I love the holiday spirit.
This past Thanksgiving I was working, but that is okay. I appreciate the holidays that I have off.
I will have this Christmas off and I couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait to spend the day with my family.
If you are struggling, hang in there.
If you or anyone you know needs extra support, I am always here to listen. Please, feel free to reach out to me.