I've been pretty vocal about my mental health issues, but in terms of eating problems and a recent diagnosis of an eating disorder, I've never really spoken up.
My issues around food are really hard to explain but as I get better, I am more aware of how messed up our eating is in society as a whole.
I plan on doing a video in late January about my eating disorder, but for now, I thought I'd share with you tips on coping this Christmas if you have disordered eating. Remember, disordered eating doesn't necessarily mean you have a full blown eating disorder, it just means you struggle with 'normal' eating patterns.
If you'd like me to talk more about eating disorders, disordered eating and general issues with food then please let me know. I am slowly learning how to change my eating behaviours and why people have issues with food, so its a really important subject to me. Id like to raise more awareness across all my social sites.
What is disordered eating?
So let me start by saying that Christmas can be a difficult time for many, especially those with mental health issues. And if that MH issue plays out in food - it can be even worse. The pressure to be happy, the disruption and lack of routine, and the enhanced focus on food can lead to anxiety and stress.
With that being said, here are ways that I will be coping this Christmas.
Stick To Your Self Care Routine
Although your day to day routine may be all over the place around the festive season, its important to take care of yourself still. Whatever your self care routine is, try and continue to do it. For me, its warm baths, candles, blankets and a nice balanced breakfast. I also start my day off with meditation whilst burning incense or sage. Doing those things as soon as I wake up sets me up for a calm day (doesn't always go to plan but you get the picture). Im really into relax music so I often listen to this song in the mornings.
Don't Overthink Food Comments Or Conversations
If you struggle around food, you might get moody, anxious or paranoid when someone discusses food in your presence. Its important to remember that everyone talks about food an awful lot during December. Try not to take in what people say and understand that if the topic of conversation is overeating, calories or 'bad' food, its not aimed at you. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, politely remove yourself from the convo or situation.
Plan & Think Ahead
Life isn't always about planning ahead, but if its about your health and enabling life to be just that little bit easier, then I am all for it. If you know your Christmas plans and food that will be on offer, its easier to stay calm and not panic that you might overeat or want to restrict - for whatever reason that may be. Ask relatives and friends for a heads up on all the festive delights and if thats not enough, bake or prepare some food that you and others can nibble on.
Be Kind To Yourself
There is a misconception that eating disorders are just about food, but for the most part for most people, its not about food at all. My eating disorder has stemmed from childhood trauma and because I never dealt with what I went through, it plays out with negative food behaviours. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received is to simply be kinder to myself, and I urge you all to do the same. Understand your self destructive thoughts but reply to them with 'I am beautiful, I am good enough, I deserve great things'. You can also add in things that are relevant to you and your situation like 'I am worthy of life' and 'I love myself enough to eat this biscuit' or 'I deserve to enjoy these vegetables'.
Do What You Can
Please don't feel bad if you can't manage to partake in all the Christmassy gatherings. You know what you can and can't do so just do your best - thats good enough. This Christmas, for the first time in my life, I'm spending Boxing Day with my best mate instead of my family. She needs me for her own personal reasons and deep down, I don't think I can manage seeing so many people when I'm not very well. Its sad, but its life and I know next Christmas will be different. Take a bit of control and make it clear to your loved ones what you would like to do. Your opinion and choice matters.
Most importantly, Christmas is a time to relax, indulge in your favourite things and to have fun. You don't need to force yourself to be happy, but a little effort in doing things that bring you joy will do you the world of good. Watch your favourite films, cuddle your baby cousins & remind yourself of all the little things you're grateful for. You've got this!!
If you need further help and information please contact The Recover Clinic here.
Remember, I'm not a therapist, but I am going through all of the above and the advice and tips I have shared, are what I've learned in therapy and from first hand experiences.