If you’ve been in recovery for your eating disorder for a while, you have undoubtedly experienced highs and lows, triumphs and trials, good days and hard days. Some days, you feel like you’re winning at recovery, and other days, you may feel like you’ve taken several steps backward and can’t seem to regain your footing.
During a time of year focused simultaneously on holidays, food, and gatherings and the pursuit many embark on to rid their bodies of the “extra weight” they have put on when engaging in these activities, it can be really challenging for those in eating disorder recovery to maintain a positive or even neutral relationship with our bodies. If this is you, you have likely spent a lot of time healing your relationship with your body, but the upcoming focus on “resetting,” “cleansing” and, ultimately, shrinking bodies can be a trigger for anyone in the face of a recovery journey.
Navigating Holiday Temptations: Resisting the Pressure to Restrict this Season
‘Tis the season where you may find that you feel tempted to restrict just a little bit . . .
. . . to make a “guilt free” dessert to bring to your next holiday party
. . . or to avoid dessert altogether
… to buy the low fat cream cheese for the dip you are making to make it a little “healthier”
… to make the drink with low sugar, low calorie mixers and alcohol (so you can *feel okay* about having two)
These thoughts come to a head when “Relax, enjoy your holiday gatherings and all of the food that comes with them!” quickly pivots to “Eek. You overindulged . . .Now, time to shrink your body!” For someone who has long struggled with disordered eating and negative body image, this can be a really challenging time of year to maintain a recovery mindset when thinking about your body. Below are a few quick reminders for when this season threatens to disrupt your recovery journey.
3 Important Reminders When the Holiday Season Challenges Your Recovery Journey
1. Diets (Still) Don’t Work
In the wake of the influx of diet-pushing posts and products ahead of the new year, remember that – no matter how promising a diet may sound – ultimately, it doesn’t work. When the urge to restrict comes over me, or when I’m experiencing discontent with the way my body feels or looks, I sometimes still have to remind myself of this truth. If diets worked, there wouldn’t be a need for hundreds (thousands?) of diet and cleanse variations, for new fad diets, or for restarting diets. People wouldn’t focus on weight-loss based new year’s resolutions year after year if diets actually worked.
While people may lose weight while dieting, there is a near guarantee that they will regain the weight they lost and then even more. So if the eating disorder voice in the back of your head tries to convince you to pick up an old dieting habit just for a little while – until you’re a little more comfortable with the way your body looks or feels, remember that restriction never delivers what it promises.
2. The way your body looks is one piece of the puzzle
Diet culture pushes the narrative that the outward appearance of your body is the most reliable reflection of the overall health of your body. That in order to love your body, your body must look a certain way. So if you are experiencing discomfort because you have gained weight in recovery or because you miss your smaller body, consider that the size of your body is not its purpose. I recently heard an analogy that said that in the same way a relationship between two people will not survive if it is based solely on one’s love for another person’s appearance, our relationship with our own bodies will never survive if it is based solely on its physical appearance. Your body contains the ability to live, love, create life, learn new things – all of which far surpass its mere appearance, and all things worth investing time and energy into.
3. You do not have to love your body all of the time
Even if and when you are working on your relationship with your body, when you feel generally comfortable with its size and appearance, when you feel like you appreciate your body for its capabilities beyond “looking small,” you may find that you don’t love your body all the time.
One thing that I have learned: you don’t have to.
Loving the way your body looks and feels all the time is not realistic for most people, and pushing the narrative that it is can quickly make us feel guilty when we don’t feel this way. This can lead us to try to find ways to “fix” our body because if we don’t *love* there must be something wrong with it. This is an instance where body neutrality, especially in terms of the way our bodies look, can be really helpful. Body neutrality is the ability to accept and respect our bodies even if and when it isn’t exactly as we would prefer it to be.
So if you find that you feel guilty because you are struggling to relate to the post of a person in a larger body explaining how comfortable they are in their skin and how much they love their body, it’s okay. While it is wonderful to see people accept, respect, and love their bodies at all sizes, it is understandable if there are times where this can leave you feeling like you are “behind” or that you have to fake feeling good about your body on days or seasons where you may not.
And if you feel momentarily envious of the post of the idealized body that is likely maintained by extreme and unsustainable measures, featuring some message about how “summer bodies are made in winter,” this does not mean you have backpedaled in your recovery journey. You can take a lot of pressure off of yourself by remembering that the goal does not need to be to love your body all the time.
Progress, Not Perfection: Encouragement for Moving Through the Holiday Season
Navigating the holiday season and all that comes with it in the midst of an eating disorder recovery journey can be a formidable challenge. The pressure to conform to societal expectations around food and body image (that shift with each holiday) intensifies during this time, testing the resilience you’ve cultivated in your recovery. As the temptation to engage in restrictive behaviors looms, remember how much work you have done to get to the point you are at in your recovery. And remember, too, that a hard day or what feels like a step backward does not at all mean progress has been lost when it comes to your recovery. This can be a very normal and expected part of the recovery process. So, keep going, friend; We see you, and you’ve got this.
By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC
All images via Unsplash
How Can Wildflower Therapy in Philadelphia, PA Help You?
If you’re looking for someone to come alongside you to help you unpack and approach the the complex set of emotions you may experience during the holiday season, our therapists in Pennsylvania are honored to help! In fact, you can get to know a little bit more about them here and book a free consultation here.
Other Mental Health Services Provided by Wildflower Therapy, Philadelphia, PA
Life is a unique and sometimes messy journey for each of us; we all have our own individual battles to fight. Our therapists know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to any of life’s challenges and because of that, we offer many unique perspectives and approaches to help meet you where you are with our Philadelphia, PA Therapy services.
We offer services for eating disorder therapy, services for anxiety, and depression, and have practitioners who specialize in perinatal mental health , maternal mental health, therapy for college students and athletes. As well as LGBTQIA+ Affirming Therapy. As you can see, we have something to offer just about anyone in our Philadelphia, PA office. Reaching out is often the most difficult step you can take to improve your mental health. We look forward to partnering with you on this journey!