The holidays can be one of the worst times of the year if you’re someone with an eating disorder or any kind of food issues. With Thanksgiving, there’s usually an abundance of food, but at least it’s only one meal. Christmas, however, is a horse of a different color. For whatever reason, people have decided that Christmas basically starts the day after Thanksgiving. That means we get to celebrate and be surrounded by holiday “treats” for practically an entire month before the holiday even gets here. YAY.
After a few months of working on myself and working on my food issues I’m starting to feel like I am making some progress. It’s not like I climbed a mountain or anything, but there have been enough baby steps that I’m at least able to see a way out of the forest. (That terrible metaphor is giving me flashbacks to my trip to Banff for some reason. *shudders*)
Even with the progress I’ve made the holidays are starting to stress me out. If you could see the break room in my office right now you would see approximately 5 gift baskets, plates of assorted cookies and pastries, boxes of chocolate covered everything, and a really ugly cake that someone paid a lot of money for. (I’m embarrassed for them.) There have been holiday get-togethers, special lunches, etc. In an attempt to maintain the slightest bit of my sanity, I’ve declined offers to a few social gatherings lately. Too much forced socialization makes my social anxiety skyrocket, so I’ve been trying to avoid doing too much this year. I’ve been trying to stick with my normal routine as much as possible – going to dance class and keeping up with exercise, reading and spending time at the book store, and cooking healthy meals for myself at home. Still, I can’t run away from everything.
There will be not one, but two Christmas dinners with my boyfriend’s family this week that I feel obligated to attend. One of these dinners will take place this evening. I’ve been doing my best to prepare myself for the occasion, but, to be honest, I am stressing over it a bit. For starters, I am not always super comfortable around his family. This is no fault of theirs, as I am uncomfortable around the vast majority of people I encounter. Most of the family dinners I’ve been to involve me sitting in the corner, being quiet and trying to focus on not saying something stupid (which I always fail at). On top of the general feelings of awkwardness, there’s the food situation. We’ve already been informed that dinner will consist of a fancy (and probably expensive) rib roast. For most “normal” people, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a lovely thing to serve for Christmas dinner. But for me, with all my eating issues and my general anxiety surrounding food this time of year, this is not happy news.
My eating disorder manifests in the form of excessively healthy eating, sometimes to the point that I don’t get enough calories. There are a number of foods that my warped brain has deemed “unhealthy” or “bad” and I do everything in my power to avoid those foods. One of those foods is red meat. I don’t believe I’ve eaten red meat since I relapsed, 6+ months ago. Even with all the baby steps I’ve taken towards recovery and the slow progress I’ve made, I’ve still been avoiding red meat. Now, this evening, we will be presented with a lovely piece of slightly bloody animal carcass and I will be expected to eat it. (I don’t even know what else we’ll be having, but I expect that some of it will involve other foods that I actively avoid.)
Do you see the conundrum?
Obviously, I can’t go and avoid eating altogether because that would be rude and draw attention to my already weird behavior. (Also, this is exactly what my eating disorder wants me to do, which is why I shouldn’t do it.) This means that I will have to go and eat food that will make me anxious and most likely bring up feelings of guilt and/or self-loathing later. I envy those in recovery that can handle these situations graciously. I am ungracious as fuck when it comes to these situations. On the outside I will try to act “normal” and pretend to be enjoying myself, but on the inside I will be panicky, angry, and envisioning myself picking up said rib roast and throwing it at the host’s head.
…and this scenario just pertains to one dinner. One holiday function of the several I have been invited to. This situation will play out over and over again for the better part of a month, with every dinner/party I am presented with, compounded by dozens of holiday gift baskets and ugly cakes with baby Jesus on them.
This is why the holidays are so challenging for people with eating disorders, even those of us in recovery. Even if you have other things to try to distract yourself with, like decorating, charitable work, or religious traditions, there’s still usually a lot of food around. Unless you refuse to leave your house for a month, there’s no way to avoid it all. *sighs*
Sorry for my long-winded rant today. I may or may not be under the influence of a lot of cold medicine.
Now, excuse me while I go warm up my rib throwing arm.<<