I am putting this piece out earlier than you might expect, and I am doing this because I know that you are already worrying. You’ve been worrying about Christmas for months now. Worrying that this time, which is supposed to be for enjoying yourself, will be soured by your toxic relationship with food. For chronic binge eaters, Christmas can be a daunting experience where you are constantly confronted by the thing you fear most: Food.
The word “binge” gets thrown around a lot during the festive period, much to the annoyance of those of us who are suffering/have ever suffered with binge eating disorder or bulimia. We’re told that binges are inevitable and deserved, which can be frustrating language for those whose days are manipulated and controlling by such eating disorders. Christmas is for many an opportunity to splurge on all the fatty, gorgeous foods you’ve been trying to stay away from all year. I remember when I had my eating disorder (oh, I now refer to myself as beyond recovery, by the way, and will explain why I do so in a future post), I would think that all my “hard work” throughout the year, restricting, purging and desperately running away from getting fat, would all be “undone” because I just couldn’t control myself when those pigs and blankets landed on the table.
Christmas last year was the first time since my eating disorder when I felt truly comfortable around food, and not upset at myself for eating until my stomach ached and my heart crunched. I used to spend my Christmas’s feeling either terrified or guilty, therefore I know how hard this time of year can be for those still battling their demons. I know how much it sucks. I thought I’d give you a helping hand after coming up with the idea for things to do after a binge when asked to contribute to Laura Thomas’s Instagram advent calendar, so apologies if some of the points look familiar yet embellished upon.
This post isn’t an effort to try and “cure” your mental illness. I’m not a medical professional, and it would be totally unethical for me to try to make you better, considering I had no professional treatment myself. This is a post detailing how to care of yourself if you do end up bingeing and feeling ridden with anxiety about it over Christmas. This is a list of self care tips. You can’t and shouldn’t be expected to stop having issues with food overnight, but I believe (from experience) that you should be kind to yourself while you work towards recovery.
1. Tell yourself it’s okay.
You are suffering from an eating disorder. Hello. A mental illness. You are allowed to be imperfect. You are allowed to “slip up”, and by that I mean battle with your thoughts. You are allowed to eat! You are allowed to enjoy yourself. Fuck anyone who tells you differently.
2.Enjoy what you eat.
One of the best things about Christmas is being able to eat and appreciate all the festive food that isn’t available throughout the year. Eat those mince pies. Drink that Baileys. Enjoy it. Notice the taste. Think about how good that ham is and how you’d like to eat it everyday. Christmas food is magical and so are you.
3. Have a bath.
If you are sore from over-filling your stomach, run yourself a bath. If you have candles, light them. Play some music you love. Float in the tub. Be still with your body. Enjoy the fact that you have fed yourself well.
4. Have a nap.
Sometimes, when you have really binged, you can feel tremendously sick. Lie down. Sleep it off. Give your body the freedom to digest without guilt.
5. Rub your stomach.
Treat your body with kindness. If you feel sore, rub your stomach. Soothe yourself.
6. Do NOT weigh yourself after a binge!
This is the golden rule. If you take note of no other tip, take note of this one. Please, please, please, do not weigh or measure yourself after a binge. The number on the scales won’t be a true representation of your “real weight”, and this is likely to look very different in a couple of days time anyway. Save yourself the headache, you will only end up feeling terrible about yourself.
Or better yet, get rid of your scales altogether.
7. Focus on what you have.
This is corny. But try to focus on things other than food. Enjoy the company of your family and friends, if you’re lucky enough to have them around. Go for a walk. Look at nature. Play computer games. Watch shit TV. Do whatever it takes to help you relax.
8. Imagine yourself eating before your next binge.
For those who battle with binge eating disorder, the lead up to a binge can often be panicked and rushed. You might’ve already binged, and are now frozen in fear worrying about doing the same thing in an hour’s time or so. Try to keep calm. Imagine eating the foods you want to binge on before you do. Do you actually want to eat them? Or do you just want to binge? Anxiety often ignites bingeing, so try your best to steady your thoughts.
9. Don’t plan to compensate with restriction.
When I used to binge, I would think: “This is okay, because tomorrow I just won’t eat anything.” Please don’t do this. Don’t try to compensate for your binges, as this will just lead to more. Your body is a wonderful thing, and will likely rebalance itself again when given the chance to relax. Take care of yourself and feed yourself well, even after you binge. Plus, turkey tastes even better in a sandwich the next day….
10. Talk to someone.
You might feel that you don’t want to ruin someone’s Christmas by “moaning” about your worries with food when you should be enjoying yourself. Fuck that mentality. If you are lucky enough to have someone you can talk to about your stresses and fears, do so. Make them listen. Hell, email me if you want. It might be Christmas Day, but you still deserve to be heard.