December 18, 2015

How to Find Meaning in the Holidays in Eating Disorder Recovery - Robyn Cruze

Robyn and her girls

Whether or not we have a history of eating disorders, the holidays can be triggering for most of us.
And, the holiday season has become outlandish.
While I like "outlandish" as much as the next person, as with most things, our culture imposes its definition of what it "should" be.
We know that there are always going to be three things during the holiday season: family, emotions, and a truckload of food. But the holidays symbolize very different things now than what they did when I was struggling with an eating disorder. I have learned that I need to define the holidays by what they mean to me. Here are some examples:

  • Holidays mean taking the time to build upon my family connections.
  • Holidays are also about reflecting and expressing gratitude for all that has brought me to this point in my life (wherever I am in recovery).
  • Holidays are about me being a part of the celebrations and love also.

When we enter recovery, we begin to question our thoughts regarding our eating disorders. It is also beneficial to question other areas of our lives; for example, what do you want the holidays to represent? Have you thought about what the holidays mean to you now? How do you define what the holiday period means to you?
Take a moment to write down what you want the holidays to be. Incorporate your values, family traditions, and the things you want to add that pertain to your recovery. Shift your thoughts from "How am I going to get through the holiday season?" to "How will I incorporate my new definition of the holidays this season?"
And, once we identify our own meaning, we can (hopefully) show up for holiday events without being hijacked by food, emotions and, sometimes, family.
It is easy to get anxious about the expectations of family, the amount of food surrounding us, and the emotions that will be triggered--without an eating disorder behavior to numb them. When I get triggered, I like to acknowledge where I am at that moment and consciously refocus on the people around me. Perhaps Aunt Jane is sitting by herself on the sofa; I can go sit with her and talk to her about what's been going on in her life. When we shift the focus to connecting with others, we build upon our recovery and welcome cheer.
The holidays don't have to be a walk through a minefield because you are in recovery from an eating disorder. They can take on new meaning, just like you currently are.
Happy Holidays, recovery warriors! You inspire me.
Robyn Cruze, MA is National Recovery Advocate and the online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.

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