Holidays and Eating Disorders: How to Navigate and Survive

We can all agree that the holidays are some of the best time of the year - seeing family, spending time with friends, and just getting some time off from school and stress. However, things can get complicated when you struggle with body image or an eating disorder. Here are some tips and ways to navigate the holiday table so you can put food out of your mind.

1. It’s not all about the food.

I know, it’s a radical idea. But especially with the culture surrounding physical fitness and aesthetic-related ideals, it can be hard not to think about where an extra serving of green bean casserole that your Nana made will end up. Enjoy your time with family and let yourself savor meals and dishes that you don’t get to enjoy very often. I promise, nobody can look at you and tell how much you ate over Thanksgiving break. Don’t force yourself to overindulge, but remember that a day or weekend of eating more than normal won’t ruin your life.

2. The gym can wait.

This is something that I struggle with personally, especially with the amount of stress I have been dealing with, considering the time of the school year we are coming up on. It’s okay to have to skip the gym or a run because you’re too overwhelmed to even think about leaving your room. The same idea goes for the holiday season. A few days or even a week not going to the gym or being as active as you have been is okay and is normal. Remember that the time you spend with family is way more important than any aesthetic-related goal.

3. Instagram and social media aren’t always a realistic view of someone’s life.

There’s nothing worse than opening your phone on Thanksgiving evening after an amazing meal with your family and seeing a fitness influencer post a “Turkey Burner” workout or another guide for exactly how many minutes of running or activity you have to do in order to burn off that piece of pie you had, the serving of turkey, or that helping of mashed potatoes you ate later in the day. Much of the Instagram world of fitness influencers is NOT REAL. That girl you see with the perfectly toned legs, slimmed waist, and perky booty? That’s a product of good lighting, posing, and maybe a little Facetune here and there.

It takes time, but I’ve found a lot of really great, encouraging, and REAL people that I follow on Instagram who talk about handling the holiday season. Unless for some reason you’re preparing for an intense bodybuilding competition that requires you to stick to a strict diet, there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating a little extra food during the holiday season.

4. It’s okay to be conscious of what you eat.

Just don’t let it consume you. I know for my own situation, I prefer to try and still eat a balanced meal even during the holidays, but if I can’t, I just try my best. That’s all that you can do.

If you’re struggling with disordered eating, body image, or any other insecurities related to food, I understand how hard the holidays can be. As hard as it is to push those thoughts aside, it’s the time that you spend with family and friends that really makes the holidays the best part of the year. And most importantly, it is OKAY to still keep track of calories, macros, etc. during Thanksgiving especially. What is important to remember is that you are more than the meals you are about to eat this week. You are a person - someone that can give back to the world and community through their actions. When people think of you, the first thing they will think of will not be your weight or the meal that you ate.

It’s also important to reiterate that the people you see on Instagram and social media who are extremely physically fit did not come about their physique and (more importantly) physical strength overnight. Their journey came with sacrifice, hard work in the gym, and decisions about food that many people don’t make. Don’t judge yourself on the success of others. Their “success”, especially when related to body image, does not mean that you are lesser than them. Everyone gets bloated after a holiday meal, and it’s normal to gain a couple pounds after eating a couple large meals. As hard as it is to tell the scale it doesn’t matter, it’s more important to remember that your family values this time with you. After all, how often do you get time to just sit in your living room with your family on a Thursday morning to drink mimosas and watch a parade?