First and foremost, I was and continue to be overwhelmed in the most cliched way possible by the response I got to the first blog. I want to thank each and every person who even pretended to read the blog and just clicked “like” (I guess they probably aren’t reading this, but whatever). I was scared out of my mind to post something like that on Facebook, mainly for the reason that I didn’t want to annoy people with it–a feeling which was quickly negated by the outpouring of lovely messages and personal conversations I had with people. So thank you!
I’m going to fail. I’d like to be more positive than that, but I am going to fail. In a few weeks time I will be going home for winter break and commence by far the most trying time of my entire year: eating big meals around my extended family.
At least once per visit home I have a major food related breakdown, crying to my mother about how I’m done having to deal with food issues. I deal with it every day and I’d like a break, thank you. Just one or two days off where I eat without any emotions or guilt or restriction tied to it. Please.
Multiply every awful part about having an eating disorder by approximately ten thousand to feel what it’s like to have multiple large family functions where the main source of entertainment–at least for me–is food. (I’m not adept at those conversations about hardwood floor installations that always seem to crop up during the holidays). Instead, I’m in the corner trying to calculate just how much of the sweet potatoes I can eat before it gets weird for other people and I end up in one of my aunts’ bathroom looking at myself in the mirror and attempting to guess how much weight I’ve gained in the last four hours.
Even writing this blog has been stressing me out– because now I’m thinking about how the holidays are coming and I’ve already been having mild bouts of panic about the prospect of meals with my multiple families. So probably I shouldn’t be the one talking about this, right? Well I’m going to agree with you on that. But I will say that I have learned one huge thing that helps, and a couple of little things that might make a difference.
The huge thing? STOP LISTENING TO OTHER PEOPLE THAT TELL YOU WHAT TO EAT.
Big disclaimer: I mean that in a sense of if you, like me, are recovering from this and are trying to make actually healthy choices for you. If you are still having trouble knowing what is healthy for you, or are still suffering from a mindset that makes you think that either under eating or overeating are good options– then maybe there are times and places to listen to the help people are trying to give. Do not ignore real help. I can’t emphasize that enough.
But when family members are commenting on how much or how little you’ve eaten and make fun “jokes” about it– that’s not ok. You don’t owe it to anyone to eat their food out of obligation or politeness.
Trust me, that is a difficult thing to learn. I come from an Italian family where the mindset is: the more you eat, the better. You’re full? We’re all full! Eat some more! You’re going to the other side of your family for another dinner? Take some food with you! You don’t want to eat their boring turkey anyway. This food is better! Shove some brie in your purse. Grab a pocket baguette for the road!
The other two things that I would suggest are:
1. Plan ahead. I’ve come to the point where I will make excruciatingly awkward phone calls to family members to see what they are serving so that I can make plans for what I will and won’t eat. This is not to be restrictive to myself as much as it is to take away the stress of the day beforehand by deciding what I’m going to eat and sticking to this. Does it always work? No. But it does help me to calm down in the time leading up to these big dinners because I have a plan.
2. Forgive yourself. I am going to fail. Like I said, I know that. It scares me that that is the truth going in to the holidays. I’m going to have moments where I lack an ounce of self-control. And I will have moments where I will have way too much control– in an unhealthy way. Those are my tendencies. I can only do my best to fight them, but the likelihood is, I won’t be perfect. It does me no good to feel bad about what I have or haven’t eaten. That will not help me make healthy choices the next day. Move on, and try to do better.
Sadly, I don’t have any better or less obvious advice. Not to sound defeatist, but this next month or so is going to be infuriating and exasperating (at least for me– maybe other people don’t have holiday food problems?). And I wish it were a prettier picture to paint, but that’s not really how having an eating disorder works.