After weeks of predictable telly adverts; mediocre christmas lunches and pushing people out the way to get to the GODDAM checkout, the dreaded day has finally arrived. And with it; the same combination of feelings that accompanied last year – underwhelmed; sad and pretty pissed off. Don’t get me wrong, I like eating (obviously) and collapsing on the sofa come 4pm as much as the next guy, but there’s something about the expectation that an entire day – or two days – is supposed to bring about satisfaction that leaves me feeling somewhat…flat.
Especially as there are many reasons why a day designed for ‘family’, limitless amounts of food and the Queen’s speech isn’t exactly my idea of a holy trinity. Quite the opposite, in fact. My dad died when I was 12 and every christmas/birthday/barmitzvah since has been a billboard sign reminder that I have one less parent than everybody else. Not to mention the fact that most of my extended family live abroad/are also dead, leaving a grand total of three festively designed plates on my christmas dinner table. That’s including my boyfriend, by the way. Oh and then there’s the history of anorexia.
Whilst I am fairly confident that, unlike christmases passed, this year won’t involve a Yule Log-induced panic attack, i’d be lying if I said that the prospect of endless amounts of food wasn’t daunting. Will I be expected to devour five helpings – and dessert – now that I am ‘recovered’? What if the sheer volume of the spread knocks me for six and old habits automatically reappear? What if I actually WANT a plate of mostly vegetables? Or do I? The questions started bubbling up two weeks a go, and mum hadn’t even bought the Turkey (crown, there’s only three of us remember?) yet.
Let’s be honest; there is a very good chance that for many people, the next 24 hours may be pretty fucking shit. Unfortunately, I am no longer of an age whereby it is appropriate to handle a day of contempt by burying myself in a conspicuously stained duvet and blasting out My Chemical Romance songs at a deafening volume, so I am forced to get up, shut up, and deal with it. Like so…
1. Drink alcohol
I’m not usually one to advocate the use of substances to quash an emotional response, but in my personal experience, a couple of glasses of bubbles makes christmas day a lot easier to stomach. I’m not supposed to admit this, but there have been many occasions (especially at the beginning of my recovery) when I would have eaten considerably less had I not been well on my way to drunksville. EMBRACE IT! If you’re prone to increased anxiety as a result of alcohol, then go easy, but if not – and you’re feeling overwhelmed – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sippin’ a little something to take the edge off. And if your brain freaks out about the calories, tell it to get fucked; it’s Christmas.
2. Take 24 hours (or more) out from social media
Fact: Your shitty christmas day will automatically become at least 30 per cent shittier (scientific equation btw) the minute that you dare to tap those sultry social media icons. Think about it; it is very unlikely that I will ever post a picture of my sad, three-person dinner table and handful of John Lewis vouchers to any social media platform. A simple process of elimination tells you that the only evidence of Christmas day festivities you will see on the Internet will be joyful, easy-on-the-eye experiences. Your mediocre afternoon could be ticking along just fine until…BAM… You lock eyes with Binky from Made in Chelsea and her disgustingly happy expression as she chows down on a gluten-free panettone whilst surrounded by a small army of sweater-vest wearing poshos. Oh and she’s obviously devastatingly beautiful – and make-up free. Fuck Binky. Fuck ’em all. Get off Instagram. NOW.
3. Download the Headspace app
I used to be a big meditative cynic – so much so that the first time Mindfulness was presented to me during a therapy session, I laughed obnoxiously and saw my anxiety levels remain much the same level before and after the exercise. A week later, I gave it a try and was astounded when five minutes into the meditation – and having not slept properly for months – I drifted off to sleep. It’s not a miracle cure for any mental illness, but it does grant you a welcome break from the bastard in your brain. And if you do it enough – and you’re lucky – you can tame the bastard when it bites unexpectedly. Headspace is a free, mindfulness app which will take you through mindfulness exercises step-by-step, before you get to a certain level and are asked to pay a small fee to continue. I think it’s about £5 per month to continue through the stages and I promise you, it is worth it. If you find your mind is wondering the first few times – don’t panic, it’s normal. Just stick with it and one day you’ll notice that you’re able to divert your mind from your anxieties all on your own. It’s a particularly good one if you’re suffering from post-meal mania. Take five minutes out of the room and plug yourself into Headspace. Then come back and have another slice of Yule Log.
4. Think in hours, not days.
The christmas week can seem never-ending. First there’s the smoked salmon and weird oriental little cracker things that everyone eats but no one really likes. When midday hits, post-present opening (which usually involves additional chocolate coated treats) – it’s customary to bring out some sort of pre-lunch snack to prepare the stomach lining for the big game. Then comes the turkey which, if your house is anything like mine, can last for anything up to ten days before mum shoves it in the freezer, only to re-discover it six months later and throw it in the bin. Then come the puddings, pies and yule log aka the course where I showcase my overeating talents. Not to mention the ever-increasing tubs (bring back the tin) of Quality Streets/Celebrations/Miniature Heroes/Roses e.t.c. These days, I’m able to enjoy it, but it was only a couple of years ago that the prospect of endless eating filled me with utter dread, for weeks. The flickering memory of such panic will stay with me for the rest of my life; which is why despite my recovery, I still have moments of hesitancy. The best way to tackle this is through your ingestion of every moment – literally. There is no point whatsoever in thinking beyond the next few hours – it dampens your enjoyment of any one moment of precious time and creates uneasiness and anxiety. I have pulled on this tool on multiple occasions throughout my recovery (and still do) as it helps me to stay in the moment and stop my ‘what if’ worries running away with me. No one can predict what will happen, who will turn up, what you will do – or eat – tomorrow or the next day (as much as you might try to) so why not give up predicting and instead, focus on the right here and right now. The memory of any given moment might be extremely precious at some point in time, so don’t waste it worrying about the forthcoming mince pies.
5. Look at family photographs (see below)
There was a time, believe it or not, when (for most people) every single squidgy, wobbly, squeezable part of you was wholly celebrated and worshiped. Before the Disney princesses; the scantily clad pop stars and Girl Talk magazine, you were an inquisitive child, blissfully unaware of the meaningless pressure that society was about to bestow upon your shoulders. Every single member of your family loved every inch of you, regardless of what you looked like – and the rule stands the same to this day. Family photos can be a powerful reminder of this, especially if there’s a doting family member willing to get all cringe and nostalgic with you. Also there’s bound to be a hilarious haircut in there somewhere to at least provide a couple of laughs.
6. DON’T WORRY ABOUT GAINING WEIGHT.
Seriously. Not only does it mean literally NOTHING if you do happen to put on a few pounds, but biology-wise, the chances of you actually putting on weight after a couple of days on the Christmas razz are very, very, very slim. According to dietitian Duane Mellor, ‘providing your christmas eating doesn’t go on until Easter, there is a minimal chance that any visible weight gain will happen. A couple of days of excess means that the food is likely to stay in your digestive tract for a while and make you sleepy. Weight gain would be very minimal, if any.’
And remember – it’s all over very soon (thank god)! Merry shitmas sisters.