As we head into the holidays, it can be helpful to have a very simple plan for responding to family and friends drawn to the very topics that may be most troubling during recovery from an eating disorder. Depending on how you spend your holiday this year, one or all of these suggestions may come in handy when the conversation takes a turn toward triggering language regarding bodies, food or weight.
Step 1: Obstruct or change the conversation if you notice someone is heading into a discussion that makes you uncomfortable.
Remember people generally like to talk about themselves and their interests. If Aunt Marie is pressuring everyone to eat more pie or is gushing over a family member’s weight loss, use that as an opportunity to reflect the attention back to her. So who taught you how to bake? What are you up to at work Aunt Marie? How was that vacation you went on?
If you’re comfortable staying on the topic but exerting your power into the conversation you could try something like this: I’ve actually been learning a lot about how weight is not a good determinant of overall health. I’m focusing on my work-life balance and healthier ways to deal with stress. I’m thinking about meditation…have you ever tried it?
Step 2: Set boundaries if someone continues to target you with questions or comments about your body or what you’re eating.
Here are some simple examples with varying levels of intensity. You can choose which ones you think would work well for you, or create your own.
- I try not to get involved in discussions about dieting and weight loss.
- I’d prefer not to talk about my weight today.
- I am so happy to be here with everyone, I don’t want to waste our time together talking about food/weight.
- Please don’t comment on my body.
- Let’s find something else to do or talk about.
- I’d much rather tell you about school / work / hobby
- It’s really stressful to me when people make comments about what I’m eating.
- It’s actually not helpful for me to talk about calories or exercise.
- I’m choosing to focus on other things this year.
- It is not beneficial for me to feel badly about my body or guilty about what I ate.
The great thing about practicing these responses with other people is that you’ll be more likely to use them when struggling with negative self-talk or eating disorder thoughts in your own head too.
Step 3: Step away & seek support.
If stressors persist or you find you just need a break from the crowd, locate your holiday ally or text a friend. Take some time to vent about what’s bothering you, take 3 very deep breaths, and then re-focus on the positive parts of the day. Sounds simple but it can make a big difference.
You are deserving of a happy and healthy holiday. How you choose to create that is up to you. Just remember that one insensitive comment from one person does not have to ruin your entire holiday. At anytime, you can choose to re-engage in both the celebration and your recovery.
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Read more about healthy holiday coping…
- 8 Ways to Take the Focus Off Food This Holiday
- What’s in your suitcase? Packing list for a recovery-focused holiday weekend
- Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder: 10 Tips to Help You Enjoy the Holiday
- Tried and True Strategies for a Recovery-Focused Holiday – Part II
Concerned that you or a loved one may have an eating disorder? Call us at (410) 938-5252 for a free and confidential phone assessment or visit www.eatingdisorder.org for more information about treatment options.
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