Here’s what I remember about holidays growing up as a kid:
I remember being surrounded by family and friends. I remember eating the candy the Easter bunny brought before we went to church on Sunday morning. I remember sneaking downstairs with my sister on Christmas Eve to see what was in my stocking. I remember testing my new bike out and playing the games that Santa brought. I remember playing in a giant refrigerator box on Thanksgiving day with my cousins and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. I remember eating the same coconut cake on Easter every single year at my Great-Aunt Ruth’s house and always having the brightly colored eggs that my grandmother made every year to go with it.
Here’s what I remember about holidays in my eating disorder:
I remember preparing for weeks in advance- extra long workouts, skipping meals, restricting wherever possible. I remember always ensuring that there was a “safe” food present when we were celebrating at my house- and the crippling anxiety of going to someone else’s house and not knowing what there would be to eat. I remember trying to make time on every holiday to go for a run, even if it was Christmas Eve and 20 degrees out. I remember checking the times the gym would be open to ensure that I could get there. I remember analyzing every single thing I put in my mouth, counting calories, seeing how that food would “fit” into my plan for the day. I remember choosing foods I didn’t like as much because they were “better for me”. I remember skipping dessert, saying I was just too full. I remember picking at the leftovers in the kitchen because it feels safer when no one is watching. I remember feeling nothing but guilt and shame after the holiday for days, if not weeks, and the compulsive need to “make up for it”.
Sound familiar? Anyone who has dealt with an eating disorder or even anyone who has been a chronic dieter/compulsive exerciser, I am sure, can relate to some of these thoughts. Holidays are hard when you have an eating disorder. You suddenly dread the holidays you loved as a kid. You want to get them over with. You want to get back to your normal/healthy/clean/whatever-it-is kind of diet you want to maintain.
This Easter was my first holiday since I committed to recovery. There have been one or two instances over the last year that I can remember treating myself and eating what I wanted- but it was closely followed up by shame, guilt, remorse. The feeling that I had done something wrong. Yesterday, I celebrated Easter with my family and here’s what happened: I ate cinnamon buns and muffins and sausage. I drank a mimosa (or two). I ate what I was hungry for and not what my “mind ghosts**” told me to eat. And what’s more- I engaged fully in conversation with my family, something that was always nearly impossible when my mind was consuming with calories, body hate and anxiety. I left my sister’s house with gratitude, rather than shame; love, rather than hate. YUGE (shout out to my Bernie fans) recovery win.
Traditionally, Easter has been a celebration of life, a time of rebirth. And while my relationship with religion is still being explored as I learn what spirituality means to me, I cannot help but think how fitting it is that my first holiday in recovery is the holiday celebrating rebirth. Eating disorders don’t want life- if you let them, they will kill you. If you’ve read my recovery journey, you’ll note that the first time I remember exercising to control the way my body looked was after an Easter dinner. Yesterday was exactly 10 years after that day. Which just goes to show that anyone who is doubting that they can break out of that eating disorder world, you can. For anyone who thinks they’ll never break out of diet culture, you can. Anyone who thinks that holidays have to be stressful, they don’t. You deserve to belly laugh with your family and not spend time calculating how much you ate. You deserve to eat what you want to eat without having to “make up for it” through exercise or other behaviors. You deserve more than you have given yourself. There is so much more life after you choose to recovery from an eating disorder. I promise you it’s worth it to find it.
*”Mind ghosts” is a term coined by the fabulous Instagram account @nourishandeat- I don’t want to take credit it for it but I do love the term as a way to describe the eating disorder voices that pop up.
P.S. If you missed my first reason to recover, check it out here!
P.P.S. If you’re still not following me on Instagram, what are you waiting for?! Check it out @sundaesforthesoul.