Eating Disorder Community Responds: What’s The Hardest Part Of Holiday Season & How Can A Loved One Help You?

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Thought it might be a helpful post, this time of holiday year, to remind everyone struggling with eating disorders and recovery and this and that mental illness –

That there is a wide ole’ community in the world that is struggling with you.

That every few people you pass in an airport or on the street, one of them has thought or felt the same way that you have felt. To some degree. In whatever way their reality shapes for them.

I posted a question on Instagram: “What’s the hardest part of holiday season & how has a loved one helped you?”

The responses are varied, but the sentiments are similar.

What’s the hardest part?

  • Family
  • Excited family when you’re not excited
  • Abundance of food
  • No “actual” family celebration
  • Lack of control
  • Diet talk
  • Grief

… to name a few.

How has a loved one help? It was interesting to me to see all the ways people can help – whether they’re a friend, lover, or brother:

  • Mom/Mum
  • Sister
  • Brother
  • Grandma
  • Best friend
  • Fiance
  • Husband/Wife
  • Myself

I’ve included responses below for all of you who might need a little ”relatability” during this next week. Feel free to comment with your own.

And thank you, to everyone on the Instagram community, who responded.

Happiest of holidays to all of you <3

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Seeing everyone around me excited just because it’s Christmas and being wholly unable to feel that. Watching families who exist and want to be together.” – Eleanorclaire_

“For me, it’s definitely the food everywhere, in overwhelming amounts. My Mom always asks me in advance on dinner input so I feel comfortable eating around everyone.” – TattoosYogaAndRecovery

“Holidays are a double whammy of food overload and people overload. Being surrounded by food is a challenge, but also working up the courage to eat in front of people that I don’t typically see. My mom is always willing to let me take breaks, take my plate away, and put my mind in my place saying “you’re not here to make people happy; you do what you need to do, even if others aren’t happy with your choice. It’s your holiday too.” – Thelakowhat

“No matter how long I’ve been out of a treatment stay or how well i’m doing, muscle memory kicks in tenfold around the holidays. By muscle memory, I mean without even thinking about it/wanting to my body seems to resort back to all those terrible, difficult, emotional holidays when I was deeply immersed in my illness. It’s bizarre what the body remembers. So 1) fighting against muscle memory and making new memories and 2) that part of my brain that screams how easy it is to engage in “one little symptom so that I can be present for the rest of the evening!”… I’m lucky to have a supportive family and also friends I can reach out to, but I am my strongest advocate and I need to put a voice to any/all my needs!” – Pfarr099

“Two things: 1. my family doesn’t have an “actual” Christmas and it makes me sad (divorce/siblings live all over the place/etc.) 2. when we all do have the chance to be together, I have a lot of anxiety because of sensory overload and can’t handle more than a few hours, so then I feel confused about wanting togetherness but unable to enjoy it. Working on it though!” – 3rd.degree.bern

All the unknowns and lack of control. Being out of my comfort zone is tough but having someone who knows you’re struggling, reassure you it’s ok, helps.” – Courtney.Seifried

“The hardest part about the holiday season is 1. diet talk and 2. knowing it “should” be the happiest time of the year but not feeling that way. My younger cousins are a great distraction, constantly wanting to play games and goof around. They are (most of the time) very carefree and don’t overthink things which is VERY refreshing.” –Be.You_Not.Ed

The bone chilling loneliness seems overwhelmingly more apparent during the holidays. It confirms that lack of family that fuels my ED. I am trying so hard to be present for my two little boys, but I want to numb my pain and sadness with ED. Having to be social when I am a major introvert with social anxiety wears me out too. I just want to stay home, but I am a people pleaser so i have to put that mask on. I dream of the Christmas where I am in recovery and can focus on Christ and my boys fully.” – Jessy3143

“I have a couple (hope that’s ok) … 1.) The fact that I‘ve changed/grown quite a bit and I still feel that my family doesn’t truly “see” me and expects me to be the healthier, “perfect” version of myself that I was when i was younger, so then it feels like a constant pressure to perform which is exhausting. 2.) It’s overwhelming with all the food, sounds, lights, and so so many questions! Families seem to have little to no boundaries when it comes to asking questions about anything and everything in life, which can often be a recipe for anxiety… 3.) Lastly, the comparison to other families who just seem to be “perfect” and so happy, or comparison to others during the holidays who just seem to have it all together (gift giving, decorating, you-name-it). It’s so easy to get caught up with feeling like you aren’t doing enough, like you aren’t enough, but that is never ever true. Comparison truly is the thief of joy. And I’ve found that if you really open up you will find that you are never alone and can eventually find your own way to make the holidays special over time in whichever perfectly imperfect way that fits for you!” – GlutesAndGreens

“For me, the hardest part of the holiday season is the abundance of food, desserts, etc. and how every holiday seems to center around food. It’s difficult to see everyone eat and eat and now feel any guilt, because for them it’s just a normal part of the holidays … it’s tempting to want to purge after eating, because it’s an “easy” way to deal with the feelings. The person who has helped me the most is my best friend, who listens to me vent these feelings and helps me process and make healthy choices.” – Graceinthegreyarea

“What’s hardest: the sheer volume of food around, and the continual comments about weight, dieting and food that my family make, How a loved one has helped: my wife knows how diet and body focused my family is and she is an expert at stepping in and redirecting comments away from food/weight/shape to more neutral and appropriate topics. I don’t usually have the emotional wherewithal to do that myself so her interrupting it is a huge help, and also reminds me that i don’t have to engage in it.” – Here.To.Survive.And.Thrive

“Stressing over my very big and loud family and their holiday get together with immense amounts of food” – JourneyToAcceptance

“The hard part is that I’m afraid that nothing about the holiday season is not important or exciting anymore. Friends and family have helped by proving that they are what makes it so.” – SharkBoyMeetsWorld

“How your family assumed you’re “cured” because you’re a healthy weight and pregnant. If only recovery were THAT easy.” – Be.Kind.2.Yourself

“The hardest part of the holiday season is wishing my dad was still around to celebrate with me. My family/friends help by reminiscing about him and making sure we still include his memory in everything we do.” – Jhcorum

“The hardest part is feeling the need to “fake it” when I’m not feeling my best. There’s a lot of pressure to be happy and social during the holidays. My fiance helps by checking in often and encouraging me to take some down time when I need it.” – Hradner

“The hardest part is the many different ‘special’ foods around – foods that I used to eat and enjoy without a second thought that now become so attached to morals and meaning and ‘have I earned this‘ that it’s so exhausting and easier just to avoid altogether. The person who has helped me most is my Mum who can see when I’m facing the wall of anxiety and will turn peoples attentions away from what I am/am not eating and who doesn’t make comments if maybe I feel brave enough to indulge in a treat alone later.” – Jesreeves2.0

Hardest thing about Christmas is now that my parents have divorced, I feel like this once warm, peaceful family holiday has turned into an epitome of loneliness and feeling like I don’t really belong anywhere… But I’m glad I have my boyfriend’s unconditional love and support, and I can talk to my mother about anything, so in the end, luckily I’m not really alone <3″ – Haikulapsi

Hardest thing is fighting away my ED. I get into this dumb cycle of ‘oh holidays where I eat a ton, better cut back so I can” and then when I eat something delicious and it isn’t ‘holiday food’ I feel guilt. The love of my life encourages I eat regularly and throughout the day and smiles while doing so, so I don’t have the binge mindset. He is da best.” – A._.quinter

“The large focus on food during family gatherings and the fact that I genuinely don’t like the typical holiday foods – and that food isn’t exciting to me the way that it is for others, so during those gatherings it’s hard for me to feel that same happy/exciting feeling. My sister always makes sure to make a dish with me that I will like and will look forward to eating (as much as possible).” – Gkubilius

Being out of a comfortable “routine” at home then visiting family and having to implement no routine and go more with the flow.… But my parents get it and they usually let me cook whatever I want for the fam, for one thing – and I continually work on patience with myself and letting that stupid shit go. My grandma (still running at 81) and sisters always put me in the best moods, too, and we can laugh about everything. Those good, deep-in-your-belly laughs, which honestly are some of the best things in life.”– ParkingforPatrons

“I find the hardest part is feeling a step removed from the moment. Not only am I making decisions about what I can and can’t eat, I’m simultaneously beating myself up because “it’s Christmas and you ought to be having fun!” Usually it’s the small things that help – mum taking my hand under the table, my sister making my place.  It reminds me that I can be okay with where I’m at, that recovery isn’t just another stick to beat myself with… that struggling with an eating disorder and enjoying Christmas can coexist.” – CharlieBindels

“That hardest part of the holiday season is being around family and feeling the need to constantly explain myself & my feelings under a microscope as they question me… as if those supposedly close to me do not understand who I am at all. My little brother always finds time to sit with me & never asks me a question beginning with “why” but instead inquires “what” is going on for me in my life. He’s a gem. – FayMeredith

Dealing with toxic relationships. Husband helps immensely by not leaving me alone with them, ever; making sure there is plenty of food that I like in the house (oh and red wine); and debriefing with me about what is ok and what isn’t ok and reminding me that I’m fine and that this will pass…” – Kristy_Shannon

“The hardest? Spending is alone; knowing that, my past, memories and grief rearing; and seeing everyone else with others, or celebrating. Suicide…too… last year I tried to jump off a bridge. Friends are family to me, and they are always beautiful. A few have invited me to their Christmas gatherings, which really means a lot.” –OliviaRosesHale

“With regard to ED stuff, I think it’s maybe the fear of being judged for what I’m eating combined with this constant feeling (FEAR) that I’ve “overindulged” and need to purge to make it right. I don’t really have a support.” – IWillNotBeMollified

“Hardest thing – not having traditions to share or happy memories from childhood to reminisce on – while it feels like everyone else does – and trying to maintain a happy fave for my now loved ones so I don’t ruin Christmas… even though I’m in so much pain. Best thing a loved one has done: forgiven me.” – Ange5421

“The hardest thing is the expectation to be happy. The best things loved ones can do is have a small one-on-one conversation amidst all of the craziness.” – Make_Me_Sanguine

“The hardest part is staying grounded and mindful. My best friend is on call during holidays and we have a signal that let’s her know when I’m triggered – she keeps me accountable.” – LiveLaughLoveRecover

“The hardest part is missing my grandmother. Learning how to help myself through it has been helpful but the most helpful thing a loved one has done for me is – my best friends call or Skype me on the major holidays. And that makes me feel like I can get through the day.” – Chelsea_Cath

“The hardest thing is the volume of food and everyone’s lack of desire to “do” anything. Like let’s go for a walk or hike. How can we be active so I don’t feel like a tub of lard after the holidays further pushing me back to ED. My mom let’s me pick the menu so I try to keep it light with veggies and a fruit dessert like pie or cobbler so I feel it’s more “balanced.” – RubyRedJeepMama

Holiday Party
Company holiday party <3 (yes, still in all black… one day maybe I’ll try some color lol)

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