Coping with Eating Guilt, Toxic Comments, & Triggers

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Hey, long time, no write. Sorry about that. I was mega-busy with the end of the semester, then the day after I got my grades in, I made my way to Cleveland. I always think I’ll have some downtime when I’m home, but that never ends up happening. When I do get a break from family dinners, friend catch-ups, etc., I’m usually trying to cram in some work (this week, syllabus planning). But this post felt important to make time to write (for my own self-care, and, if you battle similar demons, for yours as well). If you participate in any kind of late winter celebrating (regardless of the form it takes), it’s quite possible that you’ve experienced any or all of the following: eating or drinking more than you normally do; seeing family members you don’t see often who make comments about your appearance or other people’s appearance (whether the comments are meant to be “good” or not); hearing friends, family, or celebrities talk about how “bad” they’ve been during the holidays and all the ways they will be “better” in the new year.

And if you have a history of EDs or body dysmorphia, you’re probably feeling triggered as fuck.

This past week, I experienced all of the above. A couple days into Christmas cookies after dinner, I started getting that weighed-down feeling that convinces you you’ve gained ten pounds in 48 hours. I started noticing my stomach (by “noticing” I mean obsessively looking at it, lifting up my shirt when I sat down to see how much “damage had been done” since I looked last, etc.).

When I didn’t hear a bunch of “You look great”‘s from family and friends, I convinced myself that this was because I looked terrible. And when I did hear, “You look great!,” I convinced myself that last time they saw me, I looked terrible. (There’s no winning with an ED thought pattern). When women I was with lamented about how much weight they’ve gained, I joined them, adding to the toxic chorus of female voices that might actually be saying: “I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself.” And when those same women said, “Next week, I start my diet,” I affirmed that I would too.

ED’s are hard to shake. Even after reading Lacy’s super rad holiday survival guide, and years into my recovery, weeks like these still really mess me up. And after acknowledging that I am in a bad place, I’m still left with that annoying and pervasive contradictory dilemma. On one side, I’m all, “Well, I’ll feel better if I lose these few extra pounds I (may or may not have) gained, so it’s not so bad to commit to start fresh on Jan 1,” and on the other, I’m all, “RIOTS NOT DIETS.” 

I’m not saying I have all the answers to avoid this (though, Lacy’s post is a good place to start), but I have managed to find some decent ways to cope with it when it happens. Here are some things I’ve done/am going to do to help re-set.

1. Decide what foods make you feel good from a health-perspective, not a weight-perspective, then eat those foods. Maybe this means no more nightly xmas cookies, maybe it means more green juice, but don’t do those things until you’re in a place where you’re doing it to feel better, not to lose weight. Otherwise, the self-loathing will cancel out the benefits of your green juice.

2. Talk to a friend (or a health coach) who understands. I feel super lucky to have a handful of ladies in  my life who I can turn to talk about these things, and when I do, I feel like a weight has been lifted (apt metaphor!). If you’re feeling a little alone on that front, consider booking a session with aforementioned bad-ass body-positive health coach Lacy Davis. I guarantee you that talking to her will help; (you can hold me to that).

3. Skip the Get Thin for 2015 women’s magazines. Read stuff that makes you feel awesome instead. Your favorite fiction, or Buddha books, or interviews with Kathleen Hannah, or whatever. Really anything that doesn’t make you hate yourself is better than those magazines.

4. Move your body. I am obviously a devotee to the Church of Physical Activity. For me, moving my body means morning workouts and yoga, and walking as much as possible the rest of the day. Maybe for you it means dancing in your bedroom. Maybe it means chasing your kid or your dog. Maybe it’s sex. Whatever it is, find some way to  get some physical activity in–those endorphins will help dismantle the toxic thoughts.

5. Remember that everything is temporary. My favorite lesson! My most easy-to-forget lesson! When you feel stuffed after eating awesome food with friends and family, remember that the stuffed feeling will go away soon. Remember that you’ve felt like this before, that you swore you’d never be able to shake the stuffed-guilt you have, and then remember that you actually did shake that feeling, and that you will again. Instead, focus on how good it tasted and how fun it was to share with others, drink a glass of water, and keep going.

***

What else do you do to shake bad feelings that are common after holidays?

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17 thoughts on “Coping with Eating Guilt, Toxic Comments, & Triggers

  1. Ali Seiter says:

    Thank you so much for this, Raechel. It’s so helpful to remember that I’m not alone in feeling triggered during the holidays with an ED past. And fantastic suggestions, as well.

  2. lysette says:

    Sunshine! Getting above the clouds sitting on the mountains for a ride or cross country ski or snow shoe. A big dose of sun will last me days of sanity through these long winter nights. I don’t drink alcohol; I’m exempt from the holiday booze binge a lot of people get wrapped up in. Staying up late is intoxicating enough for me ;)

  3. lacy davis says:

    i love you for writing this! For us eating-disorder-recovery people it seems any extra merriment has backlash. I have had some mental struggle this season as well, with travel and food and less time to blog, etc. I’ve had some guilt, and boy do I think guilt is a bullshit feeling. So grateful to you for reminding me that I am not the only perfectionist on planet earth :)

  4. Jess says:

    Such a wonderful post! There is so much toxic talk and so many body-shaming fests. I feel like sometimes we need a reminder that we don’t have to participate!

  5. Gabby @ the veggie nook says:

    Great post Raechel. #1 has been a big one for me this year. It’s been a struggle but I’m definitely healthier for it. Also, I used to get Women’s Health, kind of as a guilty pleasure but have stopped that as well. I don’t need one more person/media outlet telling me what I should look like and what healthy is, as these are so personal.

    Wishing you all the best this new year!

    • raechel says:

      I used to get Women’s Health as a guilty “pleasure” too, until I realized that it brought me NO pleasure! I am especially grossed out by their “nutrition” recommendations—which is just whatever gross company pays them to sell their gross packaged low-fat/low-cal/chemical-filled products. Now I buy Yoga Journal, which is not perfect, but better! : )

  6. Em says:

    Thank you :) like you, years into recovery, a stuffed belly can still trigger me and lead to a lot of negative self-talk. I’ve found reminding myself it’s all temporary and that I’ve had a full belly before and that it’s important for me to nourish myself. Thanks to you and everyone else posting content like this!

    • Em says:

      Oops didn’t finish my thought that the reminder that it’s all temporary helps me to deal with the fullness better and helps me to relax about eating overall.

    • raechel says:

      Thank you for the comment! I know it’ so helpful for me when other bloggers post such honest experiences, so I’m glad to add to that. Happy New Year!

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