Along with the colorful lights, holiday movies, and festive sugar cookies, we know the holiday stress that can arise related to the abundance of celebrations. This time of year may feel challenging and uncomfortable for all - especially those working through food and body image concerns. In order to maintain recovery while navigating holiday stress, it can be helpful to set boundaries that will help you to prevent any relapse.
What are boundaries?
There are a lot of things we do in life for other people, but eating disorder recovery - that’s all for you! This is a time where you are putting time and effort into yourself and restoring your relationship with food and your body. Insert: boundaries.
Boundaries are a way to protect yourself and your needs. Throughout the recovery process, you may find that there are things that compromise your ability to move forward, whether it’s toxic diet talk or not having enough time for self-care. Maybe these things are triggers for relapse. Setting boundaries can allow you to focus on what YOU need and make space for recovery.
How can boundaries help manage holiday stress?
With all of the challenges that come with the holidays, it’s a great time to take a look at how to set some boundaries for yourself and ensure that you have the tools you need to maintain your path to recovery.
Communicate your needs to someone you trust beforehand
Having someone in your corner when the holiday stress is rising can make all the difference. We’ve mentioned time and time again how asking for support is one of the most powerful things that you can do for yourself in recovery. However, we know how hard it can be. So, here's a script to help you do it!
Sometimes just letting someone know what you’re experiencing before an event can go a long way - they can serve as a safe space where you can let off some steam if you need to. Maybe they’re someone that you can take a step outside with for fresh air. Or, if there are certain aspects that increase holiday stress, this is someone who could watch for these things and help you navigate them.
Don’t feel the pressure to eat something that doesn’t appeal to you
Oftentimes at holiday events, there is an abundance of food. Maybe your aunt made her “famous fruit cake that you just MUST have a slice of.” (We all have one of those aunts, right? No, just me?) But fruit cake just isn’t your thing. Or maybe it’s a fear food that you haven’t incorporated yet. It is okay to tell her no! You get to eat what appeals to you. Period.
In fact, here are some phrases to use to help alleviate the holiday stress and set boundaries around your food choices:
- “That smells delicious! I’m just not really in the mood for it right now. Thanks for offering!”
- “I’m really enjoying this [fill in the blank] right now, but maybe I’ll try some of that later.”
- “You’re so sweet to bring that - could I wrap some up and take it home with me?”
Swerve the diet talk at the table
If we had a nickel for every time we heard someone say an incredibly triggering comment at the dinner table, we'd be rich. Unfortunately, these comments are thrown around the table at the holidays without a second thought.
These statements are rooted in diet culture, and are not helpful to hear for someone in recovery. It’s okay to set some boundaries for yourself and swerve the diet talk. A few things to minimize the holiday stress and distance yourself from diet talk are:
- Leave the room. Go outside and catch a breath of fresh air.
- Change the subject. Ask a family member about what their favorite holiday tradition is!
- Remember what you know about diet culture. We probably know by now that restriction and dieting isn’t the way to have a healthy relationship with food!
- Lean on a friend or family member (see #1 above). Let them know that you are uncomfortable with the conversation and ask them to help you change the subject.
Go with what you know - create a balanced plate
In your recovery process, you have probably worked with your dietitian and likely know what a balanced plate looks like for you. Whatever your meal structure looks like, you have the tools and the knowledge to create a plate that fits into your goals. If you are surrounded by fear foods, go back to what you know - starches, proteins, fats, fruits, and vegetables.
Especially in your recovery, setting the boundary that you are going to plate foods that nourish and satisfy you can be an extremely powerful way to fight back against the eating disorder.
Understandably, there will be foods that add a little bit more to the holiday stress. Such as foods that you don’t commonly have. It’s okay to incorporate these into your holiday mea. They can still be a part of a balanced plate!
All food provides you with nutrition.
Find things that feel satisfying and comfortable for you because when it comes down to it, every food nourishes your body in some way.
Take time for yourself amidst the holiday stress
With holiday celebrations, we know that sometimes they can feel like a marathon. Maybe you’re hopping from party to party to make sure that you’re seeing all of your loved ones. For you introverts out there, this can get tiring real quick.
That’s why we encourage you (as always) to make time for some self-care. Set boundaries around the social time; it’s okay to say no to plans when you’re exhausted.
Self care can look different for different people. It can be taking a walk by yourself after a meal with family. Maybe it’s sitting down and watching a holiday movie with a hot beverage. Or, our personal fave - listening to some holiday music and having a little dance party!
Create a plan with your team
Sit down with your dietitian or therapist and discuss what typically contributes to your holiday stress.
Describe a situation that has been tough to handle in the past. What about this situation makes you the most nervous? Are there skills that have worked for you in the past? Talking through various scenarios with your team can give you the extra tools you need to set boundaries as you navigate recovery this holiday season.
How Can NourishRX Support Setting Boundaries?
Here at NourishRX, we completely understand the toll that holiday stress can have on your recovery process. AND we want you to know that we're here for support every step of the way. Boundaries are essential to you as a human and especially as you navigate recovery. You are not alone as you navigate this busy season. Make sure to give us a call or visit our website to see how we can support you today.