health

How to make Christmas easier if you're living with an eating disorder.

Christmas isn’t always happy, and it certainly isn’t always stress-free.

Talk of rich Christmas meals and desserts can make some people feel particularly worried and vulnerable – especially those who suffer from disordered eating.

Family pressure to eat and questions about weight can really be difficult to field on such a chaotic day.

To ease the strain of the festive season, Mamamia has worked with the Butterfly Foundation to provide helpful ways women can keep the festive season in perspective.

There are helpful ways women can keep the festive season in perspective. (Image: iStock)

Pass this onto a loved one who is suffering, or a family member to help spread awareness.

1. Catch up outside food events.

Food can play a significant role in festive celebrations. Find ways in the lead-up to the day itself to catch up with people outside of food events and celebrate in your own way. If Christmas has spiritual significance for you, what can you do to honour or express this?

2. Make eating regular meals and snacks a priority.

We know this is hard, but it helps a lot! You’ll feel better able to deal with and enjoy celebratory activities if you’re well nourished.

3. Don't skip meals.

Avoid the temptation to skip meals or restrict prior to a special event. It will make you feel irritable and more likely to binge.

4. Talk to someone you trust.

Let a trusted person or people know how you’re feeling. Tell them ways they can support you leading up to Christmas Day (or another special event) and on the day itself.

LISTEN: Let's stop making Christmas all about food. (Post continues...)

5. Write down your strategies.

Use all the strategies you’ve been learning to quieten your eating disorder voice and make your wise and supportive voice louder and stronger. At times it can be hard to call upon these strategies, particularly in the moment when your eating disorder voice is loud.

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It can be useful to have a list of helpful strategies written down to refer to if needed.

6. Keep in contact with your support network.

Stay in contact with your therapist, dietician and/or GP in the lead-up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve events. Find out when they’ll be around over this period and ask them to help you work out some supports if they’re going to be on holiday.

7. Take it easy.

If you’re too unwell to participate as you’d like in celebrations this year, give yourself permission to take it easy. Visualise what you’d like to be doing this time next year and work hard towards recovery.

Visualise what you’d like to be doing this time next year. (Image: iStock)

8. Prepare responses to tricky questions.

If you’re worried about people commenting on what you’ve got on your plate, write down a few responses and practice them with a friend beforehand. “I’m doing my best at a hard time; please be gentle with me” or “I’d rather not talk about it right now” might be good responses.

9. Remind yourself of the importance of food.

Remember that it’s normal to eat differently at this time of year. Food is social and celebratory as well as being nourishing for our bodies.

10. Be kind to yourself.

Be extra kind to yourself. What can you do to care for yourself in the lead-up to Christmas and the day itself? What Christmas gift could you give yourself?

If you want to reach The Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 before Christmas, support is available 8am to 9pm on Friday the 23rd of December. The Helpline will be open again on Wednesday the 28th of December.

If you need urgent assistance, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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