I distinctly remember feeling fat wearing the leotard pictured here. Yes, at the young age of four, I already heard Ed screaming, “You aren’t good enough.”
If you hear Ed’s voice, you know that he can talk incessantly all year round. You also know that his chatter can get even louder around the holidays.
Remember: just because Ed may get noisier doesn’t mean that you have to waiver in your recovery. In the end, it doesn’t matter what Ed says or does. What matters is how you respond to him. Here are ten tips for responding to Ed this holiday season:
- Choose a Go-To Support Person. For each holiday celebration, select a designated person for support and accountability. Choose someone who is willing, available, and, if possible, actually attending the event. Teach this person the dos and don’ts of support, and discuss things-that-might-happen scenarios—explaining what kind of response would be most helpful to you in each situation.
- Carry Support with You. Program other key support people into your phone—set them up as easy-to-access favorite contacts. In moments of distress, make a call. If picking up the phone to make a support call seems too difficult, consider sending a short text—like ‘SOS’ or even ‘Ed.’ Tell your support team ahead of time what your distress signal text might say, and let them know helpful ways to encourage you.
- Stop and Breathe. Practice mindfulness by paying attention to all five senses—see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the joys of the season. Meditate—even for just a few moments—before attending holiday gatherings.
- Face the Food. Ed will try to make food a big deal; don’t let him. The truth is that holiday food is often the same, so you can easily plan ahead by consulting with your dietitian or a trusted support person. If you don’t know what will be served, ask beforehand. At the meal, you might even ask a support person to prepare a plate for you. For extra accountability, text a photo of your plate to someone on your support team. Ask your friends and family not to comment about what you are eating.
- Plan Something Special Beyond the Food. For many people, including those without eating disorders, food can become the focus of holiday gatherings. While it is normal and healthy to enjoy the festive meals, it can also be important to plan something to look forward to that doesn’t include turkey or stuffing. Add fun to your schedule: play a board game, watch a movie, or go on a walk.
- Increase Support. The busyness of the holidays might tempt you to cancel therapy sessions. But added holiday pressure is actually an indicator to beef up support, not decrease it. Adding support doesn’t necessarily mean a huge time commitment. Get creative. Listen to an episode of Recovery Warriors podcast while driving to and from holiday events. Use apps like Recovery Record to send yourself positive affirmations throughout holiday gatherings.
- Address Body Image Upfront. When I was in early recovery from my eating disorder, I asked my friends and family not to make comments about my appearance. I clarified, “Please don’t even say that I look ‘great’ or ‘healthy.’” (The Ed filter has a way of turning any comment into a negative one.) Importantly, I had this conversation with loved ones prior to attending holiday events.
- Celebrate Small Victories. If you conquer a food fear at a holiday gathering, share the news with your support team. To some friends and family, eating a slice of apple pie might not seem like a big deal, but it surely can be a sign of immense courage. Celebrate with people who get it.
- Create an Emergency 911 Card. As described in my first book, Life Without Ed, make a list of time-tested relapse prevention tips. Keep this list with you at all times. Consider typing your emergency 911 card into your phone as a note. Ed thrives on forgetfulness. Be at least one step ahead of him.
- Remember the Meaning. Despite what Ed may tell you, the holidays were not created as a way to upset people in recovery. What does each holiday truly mean to you? Practice gratitude. Laugh.
- Never, never, never give up. If you fall down this holiday season, pick yourself back up right away. Choose recovery in each and every moment. Above all, hold onto hope for a full recovery. In the years to come, imagine a holiday without Ed even making a peep. Yes, it can get that good.
Need more holiday help? Check out our recent Facebook Live with Jenni and Erica Trocino, Clinical Director of The Meadows Ranch. Watch anytime by clicking here!
A Senior Fellow with The Meadows and advocate for its specialty eating disorders program, The Meadows Ranch, Jenni Schaefer is a bestselling author and sought-after speaker. For more information: www.JenniSchaefer.com