An Open Letter to My Eating Disorder During the Holidays

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with you, and my recovery lasted for the next two years. After nearly a year of telling me to restrict, to over-exercise, to withdraw myself from any social situations that would involve food, I began to seek treatment, to break free from my paralyzing misconceptions about eating and my own body. While every day spent under your control was painful, the holidays were by far the worst. You were there at the Thanksgiving table, at my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve, and every time I considered treating myself during my favorite time of year. You tried to make the holidays about food and my body, but I’ve learned how to enjoy them, free of your influence.

You once told me that I should restrict the day before Thanksgiving dinner, to make up for the calories I would eat the following day. You told me this was the only way to justify such a big meal, and that even if I did restrict, I would still have to workout on Thanksgiving to make sure I didn’t gain weight.  And even if I followed your rules and restricted my intake and worked out on Thanksgiving morning, it was never enough. You still made me feel guilty after dinner, so much so that it was hard for me to enjoy being surrounded by family. But now I know that your rules aren’t real, and that one Thanksgiving meal won’t change my body.  I will no longer punish myself for celebrating with my family, because I would rather watch the Thanksgiving day parade than run on a treadmill.  

You once told me that I had to binge on all of the holiday treats at once, because we only have them once a year. You told me I had to try all of the cookies and chocolate and cake, because it was the only time of the year I was allowed to. But once I ate it, you would tell me to work out all night to burn it off, to make up for indulging. You made me feel guilty when I did eat, and guilty when I didn’t. It was a constant lose-lose situation for me, because I could never enjoy what was on my plate.   But now I know that I don’t have to eat everything at once, and even if I don’t try every single Christmas dessert, it doesn’t make the holidays any less special. Now I know I can eat what I want to, and that eating certain foods just because it’s the holidays isn’t an obligation.  I’ve discovered balance, and that a workout doesn’t have to follow every holiday meal, because I’d rather to decorating the tree.      

You once told me that I couldn’t enjoy the holidays, because they were only an occasion of increased calories and unnecessary food. But now I know that food is just one small part of the season, and that if I spend all my time preoccupied with what I’m eating, I’ll miss out on the special moments that only happen once a year. Because I’d rather drink hot chocolate while watching holiday movies without skipping dinner. I’d rather bake cookies and be able to lick the batter off the spoon.  I’d rather be present during this time of family and friends, than be worried about gaining weight. It’s been a year since I’ve let you control the holidays, and I’m happy knowing I can enjoy my peppermint bark with a guilt-free conscience.