Somehow I block this out every year until, about, December 30th. Maybe even the 31st. I get so focused on just surviving the holidays without my e.d. taking charge that I forget about New Year’s resolution time. I just get through Thanksgiving and Christmas, then spend a few days focusing on being mindful and not restricting or exercising to “compensate” for having allowed myself to be festively flexible. Just as I think I’m out of the woods – I’ve made it, I haven’t fallen back into behaviors, I’ve stayed in contact with my team and my support network – I’m slammed back into reality again.
This year, that reality slam (which is much different than a productive reality check!) happened at my New Year’s Eve party. Upon one of my friend’s arrivals, we exchanged greetings, I offered him a drink (he decided on water), and I told him there were snacks in the living room. He replied, “Oh, god. I’m boycotting food.” He went on to explain that he ate “too much” over the holidays, so he needed to cut himself off. I left the room and made myself a plate of healthy, nutrient-filled snacks. He ended up doing the same.
Then, the commercials started. Dexatrim, Bally’s, Nutrisystem, all kinds of exercise gadgets and plans, xenadrine Ultra, even ads marketing gum as low-calorie and saying that chewing it will prevent you from giving into sugar cravings (aka eating, aka I know many who would consider this to be an eating disordered behavior). Then today, the amount of runners on the trails in the city was INSANE (we’re having a snowstorm, keep in mind), Whole Foods was advertising ways to lose weight, gym parking lots were packed, etc., etc.
So, there are the obvious things about this. Diets don’t work. It’s okay to eat differently over the holidays. Exercise should ideally be about health, not weight loss. There are no inherently good or bad foods. We don’t need to feel guilty for eating. And all of these messages are incredibly important and need to be spread around in order to counter all of the unhealthy, unbalanced messages out there right now.
But the message that I was to spread is this: Don’t forget about the people in your life who are struggling with eating disorders. And don’t forget yourself. It’s so easy to think, “Phew! We made it through the holidays!” And that is important. The holidays can be ROUGH, especially for people with eating disorders. Yet, we must remain attentive. I know that, personally speaking, this is one of the hardest times for me. Everyone is talking about weight loss, exercise, resolutions, etc.; it feels like some sort of exclusive club that I can’t join. It’s alienating. It’s incredibly triggering.
If you know or work with people with eating disorders, please keep in mind that this part of the holiday season – when it is seemingly over – can be very, very challenging, and we may need continued support. By that, I don’t mean sit us down and say, “So, how are you feeling about New Year’s resolutions?” But, do be ready if we need to vent about it, or talk about it, or process it. If we bring it up, help us to counter the resolution insanity with conversations about healthy and sustainable balance. And if we don’t address it directly, you can offer support simply by being there, by offering words and model behaviors that are balanced and nourishing, by avoiding talk of what you need to “improve” or “change” about yourselves, or what we need to “improve” or “change” about ourselves.
And if you have an eating disorder, it’s okay to continue to ask for support after the holidays. It’s okay to do it year round, for that matter! And it’s okay to not make a New Year’s Resolution if you do not want to.
Personally, I won’t be making any resolutions this year. For me, I know that resolutions can lead to black and white thinking. In my head, resolving to do something means I *must* do it, and I will be a failure if I can’t follow through.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals. This doesn’t mean I won’t try my best to work on things in 2010 (just as I have been in 2009 and will be in 2011 and beyond). But, I will not set myself up for failure. I will be human.
In 2010, I will try my best to . . .
allow myself to lean on my treatment team and support network for models of healthy, balanced behavior to help me get through this resolution madness.
acknowledge that my situation is different than most people’s, and what are healthy resolutions for some are not necessarily healthy for me.
nourish my body, get to a healthy weight and work with my dietitian to maintain it because I deserve to be happy and healthy and strong and nourished.
with the support of my treatment team, once again begin engaging in moderate, self-affirming activity, like yoga and outdoor cycling (when it gets warmer!).
forgive myself when I make mistakes, and focus on the good that I have done, so that I will be able to continue building on it, rather than giving up because I feel like a failure.
allow myself to feel good and believe it when people compliment me.
avoid all or nothing resolutions, and continue seeking balance, support, healthy, and reciprocity.
What are your thoughts on this matter?