I know this segment is called Queer Christmas, but I felt very strongly about talking on this subject, so I hope you’ll excuse the non-specific-queer topic. Also, TW for food and mention of eating disorders.
The holidays are often a stressful time, and combine that with the amount of emphasis on food, and it’s some people’s worst nightmare. I know from personal experience that fighting with an ED over the Christmas period can be incredibly tough and very anxious. So I’ve compiled some ways to help anyone struggling through the next few weeks.
First things first, take a deep breath. It’s cheesy, I know, but breathing slowly and steadily will help you calm down – literally, it increases the amount of oxygen to your brain and helps you feel more relaxed. Whether you’re having to serve yourself food, or helping with cooking, or surrounded by people eating, just take a breath and pause…
There is no rush. Some people find eating quickly is easiest, and some people find that even more daunting. So remember that over the festive period and family meals etc. there will always be those people who are slow eaters, and those people who talk forever. So there really is no rush; take it at your own pace and eat small and slowly.
Smaller can be better. Sometimes having a small portion helps. Trust me, I know that even when you think something may be a healthy portion your brain then does the whole ‘but what if everyone else thinks it’s too much’ routine – but try your best to ignore that, and if you have small servings then you’ll feel slightly better about eating it. And if it works out, you can always get more! Sidenote: if someone asks why you’re not having much, you can simply say ‘I’m not very hungry’ or ‘I’ll get seconds’ – you don’t need to explain yourself to them.
Also bare in mind, you don’t need to finish everything. This can be difficult because you may feel pressured to finish your meal out of politeness, but you don’t need to. You may feel more comfortable with leaving half, or even almost all the food on your plate, and that is absolutely fine. Leftovers are always welcome at Christmas. Don’t let yourself be pressured into eating everything you are given. The previous sidenote applies here, if people ask why you’re not finishing food.
Remember the attention is not on you. I know it can be hard to convince yourself of this, but especially at busy occasions like Christmas, people will really not be focussing on you – the only time they will be is if you are talking, or being spoken to, and in this situation you can simply put down your cutlery and talk, and remember that then they’ll be focussing on what you’re saying, not what you’re eating.
Have a support network around. If you haven’t told family (or whoever you’re spending the holidays with) then this will probably be a lot harder to deal with, so try telling someone. It can be everyone, or just one trusted family member or friend. They don’t need to be around in person – though a hug can be nice – someone on the end of the phone or Facebook is just as helpful. Someone who can support you before and after meals, and who you can offload to when you need to.
It is absolutely fine to not eat with other people. A lot of the time it’s not the eating which is difficult (or as difficult), but the act of doing it in front of or around other people, even if they’re close family. So don’t be shy about excusing yourself from a meal or not eating at the meal but joining in with conversation. Sidenote: this doesn’t mean it’s okay to completely cut out food, but it does mean it is completely fine to eat alone and in your own safe space and at your own pace.
I know it is never easy in any food-related situation when you suffer with an ED, but try to remember that the holidays will be over soon, and you really are not the centre of attention when eating. Good luck, and as always I am here should anyone need support or advice.