Holiday Survival, ED Bites Style

So tomorrow is Christmas. There is a ridiculous amount of hoopla around Christmas, and parts of it I enjoy (lights, decorating, Christmas carols) and others I really don’t (the myopic focus on food, the expectation that you will have a happy holiday dinner with family, the commercialization). What helps me is to focus on the other name for Christmas:


Tomorrow might be Christmas, but tomorrow is also Tuesday. It’s just like any other day. It still has 24 hours, and it will not last any longer than that.

Reminding myself that Christmas is just any other day really helps me stay focused on what I need to do for recovery. I eat exactly the same as I would any other day. Yes, some of my food choices are a little different (I probably have less fruits, a little more veggies, and more fats over the course of the day), but in terms of calories and exchanges, it all equals out. For years, I ate the same meal plan I would any other day.

It really helped.

I don’t feel the need to stuff myself at dinner because it’s any other dinner. I don’t get as stressed because I got dinner handled. I know how to do it. Protein, carbs, fats, veggies, and salad. I also don’t skip meals or snacks in “preparation” for the big Christmas dinner because–yup–it’s just another dinner. If I can, I like to find the menu beforehand so I know what’s coming my way, and it helps relieve some of the stress.

I also eat my meals on (close to) my regular schedule. In my family, we usually have a brunch around 11am or so. I don’t do well at brunch. I can’t stuff myself to get all of the required food in, so I usually have a smallish breakfast at the regular time (assuming, of course, that I get up early enough). The “brunch” is my lunch, I have a slightly earlier snack and a slightly earlier dinner. My evening snack is dessert.

Like I said, I try to keep it like any other day.

It’s a balance between trying to be uber-flexible and pretending that the ED stuff doesn’t exist (which is ludicrous, because it does) and being so rigid that I can’t enjoy the holiday. Some people can go with the flow more easily. Others need much more of a structure. The important thing is finding what works for you. If your recovery would be stronger if you ate a bigger lunch in the privacy of your home, had a lighter dinner with family and then made up the calories when you got home, go for it. I did that for years when I would have to attend a gathering outside my home. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked. It kept me in recovery.

The combination of food and family is frequently a disaster waiting to happen. People say dumb things, they bitch about their thighs and talk about their New Year’s diets. They comment on your plate and your body as if they were acceptable topics for discussion. They’re not. We are thrown together with an array of neuroses, some of which are our own, and it frequently explodes into disaster. The Hollywood writers who portray happy meals clearly grew up on a planet that was very different from my own and the one that most of my friends occupy. Accepting that Christmas dinner just needs to be endured, not enjoyed, also helped me. I didn’t have any expectations to be crushed. Assuming everyone survived and no one was arrested meant victory.

So I hope you all have a recovery-oriented day tomorrow. It might not always be pleasant, but as long as you keep moving forward, Christmas will end after 24 hours…just like any other day.

Too add a little smile to your holiday, here’s a Grumpy Cat meme I made up just for you:

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13 Responses to “Holiday Survival, ED Bites Style”

  1. Nice meme. Love the post. That is my focus this year- to treat all holidays just like every other day so that I stick to my meal plan. To not focus on “eating with the family” which throws everything about my day off (mine has “dinner” around like 3 on holidays- wtf? where is lunch? where is dinner? they stuff them both into one sitting) and instead just focus on “eating.” It takes a lot of effort and makes me feel a little isolated, but I am putting health first- I am bound and determined to take care of my body, holidays be damned. Thanksgiving- check. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve still to go…

  2. I love the Grumpy Cat. No shame.

    Anyway, the holidays don’t stress me out anymore in that a) my family was always pretty understanding of my oddness and b) we no longer have a big get together and all my meals are eaten at home like normal now before I go to my mom’s. However, the gym is closed on Christmas and it’s so freezing I can’t go for a walk. This presents stress to me. Just doing a DVD at home? The horror!

    I’m being sarcastic, but it’s true and how my brain works. But like you said, it’s one day. I can’t get through anything for one day and will instead focus on giving myself the gift I need most-health-and enjoying relaxing with my family (an oxymoron, but you get the point.)

    Merry Christmas to you!

  3. I really like this post and will be sharing it with the Alumni group from the treatment center I went to. There is so much pressure on Ed sufferers to “over preform” in recovery (eat more than usual, try tons of desserts, snack out of the usual plan), when really, Christmas/Thanksgiving/New Years Eve dinners should be like any other meal. Sometimes we become more comfortable with longer years in recovery, but for others it’s just the grim reality of having an ED. The most important thing is to stay in remission/recovery no matter what.

  4. Great post. I agree with you so much when it comes to recovery. At different places in treatment, the goal was to go eat a big mac and go to a buffet and pretend we were normal!! FACEPALM. I like to be a little more realistic, and your blog helps me. I also just finished your book and it was one I felt I could finally recommend to my mom!!

  5. Thank you!

  6. Why treat it like any other day? Why not eat more? Like normal people? We should learn to treat ourselves on these days with extra cakes and chocolates and candies and desserts with extra cream, and buffet food and eating at odd times. Not pressure ourselves, I agree, but not stick rigidly to a meal plan either. We need to embrace food but more importantly embrace normality. Merry Christmas.

  7. Because there is a difference between “normal” that lots of people do, and healthy behaviour. Force-feeding on Christmas day because it’s become expected of us, or commercially driven, isn’t healthy either. If that’s what you want and enjoy,then great! But I’ve never understood why bingeing because of other’s expectations was any better than bingeing because of my own
    Thanks for the post Carrie: today, recovery is staying more important tan somebody else’s expectations

  8. i really like this post. treating it like a normal food day helps to take away the anxiety of the amount of food. but also it’s okay to have a fun food on xmas, with a “treat yourself” mindset. i really didn’t do so well yesterday, but i’m keeping the “normal day” mindset to help stay on track. thank you for this post and have a Merry Christmas!

  9. Seeing people fighting like you do is priceless.
    It really is a help for me.
    So I just wanted to say thank you.

    I like the way you manage the “all Christmas thing”. The normal day mindset will help me in the future, for sure.
    Wish you the best for 2013!

    (sorry for my english 🙂 !)

  10. Hey Carrie! Are you still planning to write a post on visual perception and EDs? (You mentioned it on Twitter, I believe.) No pressure if you’re busy or no longer interested, but I’d love to read your thoughts – or just a summary of your research – if you’re feeling inclined to share.

    Hope the new year has been good to you so far!

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. YES! It’s one of the next in my lineup. 🙂 I had bronchitis and got really sidetracked.


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