The 4th of July is behind you and I’m sure you faced challenges, but I also hope you had some successes in navigating through the day. I had numerous conversations with clients who were nervous for the holiday because it is typically a day of barbeques, swimming, drinking, odd eating times, socializing, etc.
I was initially going to write a post to help strategize for the actual day itself, but I thought this time, it was more important to write a post to help with the aftermath.
When holidays approach, people who suffer with eating disorders go into “overdrive” mode with their catastrophic thoughts, fears, and unanswered questions about the day. “Will there only be hot dogs and hamburgers? What time will they be serving the food? Should I eat before I go, or eat there? What if I feel like I’ve eaten too much? What if everyone is drinking? Should I drink? Then what do I do about my food? What if everyone is swimming? I don’t feel good in my body. If I swim, I’m not sure how I will handle my food. What if people comment to me about my eating or my weight? What will I do then?” And on, and on, and on….. You know the drill.
Instead of the holiday being about having a fun celebration, it becomes about your eating disorder, and your eating disorder undoubtedly wants to ruin it for you. It always does. It is a dictator in your head that intentionally messes with your thoughts to elicit fear and discomfort, so that you will stay home and feel “safe”, or attend the party and be “in your head” and still be miserable. Both of these are bad options, because they are driven by what your eating disorder wants you to do, instead of what the real you wants you to do.
But, it’s not your fault that you have an eating disorder. You cannot possibly expect to be able to control all these negative fearful thoughts, but you can certainly attempt to co-exist with them, and do the best you can to act opposite them. If you give up all of life’s events and opportunities, then you end up becoming detached, and even more socially and emotionally awkward. It’s ok to attend functions and not do them perfectly. It’s also ok to struggle with social awkwardness. Feeling uncomfortable is somewhat normal, and doesn’t have to ruin your day. Being dictated by your eating disorder on the other hand, will undoubtedly ruin your day.
The aftermath though, is what some of you may be feeling now. After a holiday, especially if it posed eating and/or body image challenges, is the time when your eating disorder gets ramped up even more. It is skilled at making you OBSESS about what is in the past. It loves to bring up thoughts about what you ate, what you looked like, what people did or didn’t say, but…above all…your eating disorder WANTS YOU TO PAY THE PRICE! The price for attending the event is all about what you do NOW. Your eating disorder wants you to somehow pay penance for whatever it says that you did wrong. Undoubtedly, your eating disorder will concoct something that you did wrong. That’s it’s mission. These are some of the things your eating disorder may tell you now:
· It may tell you that you need to restrict because you ate something out of the norm.
· It may say that you are out of control, and you must never eat that food again.
· It may tell you that you are a horrible terrible person for eating at a time that wasn’t the “norm.”
· It may tell you that you are F*T because you wore a bathing suit.
· It may tell you that you need to compensate in one way or another for the “damage” you have done, and also it may tell you that you can never attend another occasion because it’s too hard.
Any of this sound familiar? Of course it does. Do ANY of the above comments sound kind, caring, loving, and compassionate? Would you EVER tell anyone else these things? Of course you wouldn’t. So, you CAN’T listen to them!!!!! They are FALSE statements. They are distortions and untruths.
These thoughts can be so harmful to your recovery, ONLY if you “fuse” with them, believe them, and let them dictate what you do next. This is where you have a choice!!! You don’t have to let these eating disordered thoughts determine what you do next. You don’t have to restrict. You don’t have to compensate in any way. You don’t have to abstain from going to any more parties. You don’t have to accept that you can’t wear a bathing suit. You don’t have to accept that you can’t eat barbeque type foods ever again. You CAN act exactly as you know you need to act, to support your recovery. You NEED to act in a way that aligns with the direction you want your life to take. It is very hard to do this, but it gets easier over time. EVERYTHING in recovery takes practice…EVERYTHING!!! You can start at any time, so why not START NOW!!!
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