It Is Not About The Food – Part 3 of 3

This blog is geared specifically for people who are currently living with an eating disorder and might find themselves in various stages of recovery during the holidays. As always, we encourage you to be brave and take good care of yourself.

As we continue in the holiday season, it is important to talk about boundaries – boundaries about your food choices. Each family navigates the holidays differently, and the holidays can put a spotlight on food with some families spending hours prepping food, planning meals, grocery shopping, etc. It can be stressful to say the least. 

Whether you have not yet sought out professional help with your eating disorder and are stressed about navigating the holidays, or if you are finding yourself burnt out and tired of working on your recovery, sometimes what we need the most during trying times is to take a look at our boundaries.

Wherever you find yourself in the struggle with food, this blog might be for you. 

Self-care is extremely important during this time, but sometimes we don’t feel worthy of self-care. Boundaries are a form of self-care and at times are one of the most important areas to explore and implement in such high stress times like holidays.

No matter where you land in your strained relationship with food, let’s chat about a few things to help prepare you: 

  1. You cannot make everyone happy. Protecting your inner peace and emotional well being comes first. We will discuss some practical ways this can look in a moment. Hang in there. 
  2. People will absolutely have reactions to your boundaries, AND it is NOT your responsibility to manage them. 
  3. Maybe you are thinking, “Self-care is hard enough, but boundaries….forget it. I am _____ (fill in the blank with whatever uncomfortable emotion) of setting boundaries.”
  4. If number 3 resonated with you, that is a sure sign that this would be a great opportunity to discuss boundaries with a therapist. 
  5. Choosing between eating something you do not want to just to be polite only to find yourself scrambling to find a bathroom later to purge is not freedom. 
  6. Restricting yourself to make yourself happy or feel accomplished that you held out on holiday food is not freedom. 
  7. You have permission to protect your mental health, emotional, and physical health – even with friends, family and loved ones. 

Here are some practical things you can explore to see what would be a good fit for you:

  • “I already have a dietician/therapist on my support team that I am working with for my recovery”
  • “Actually I don’t want that, thank you though.”
  • “No thank you”

Follow the Assertiveness formula:

  • When you….. (Insert fact, action of other person. Keep it short and to the point and do not add conditions such as “well, sort of, kinda, I guess, maybe,” or try to lessen the action. Just repeat the facts as you observed NOT how you interpreted them.) 
  • I feel….. (insert your emotion or emotions…keep it to two or three emotions) 
  • Because (insert a personal value) 
  • I request (insert the boundary – stop calling, stop texting, start picking up after yourself, etc.) 
  • If you do not, or cannot, this is how I will respond (insert the “consequence”) 

Example family reaction:

A family member, friend, co-worker, etc. says, “I can’t believe you’re going to eat that much” and comments on your plate in front of the family at holiday gatherings. 

Example response you could use:

When you comment on my food choices without me asking, I feel discouraged and frustrated. Because I value intuitive eating/community/recovery, I request you not comment on my food unless I ask for your opinion or insight. If you continue making comments, I will not engage with you about this topic.

A few tips on how you can respond well:

  • Follow the DEARMAN tactic.
  • Respect yourself – what are your wants, needs, desires?
  • Express your thoughts and feelings calmly – giving the silent treatment or ghosting is not setting a boundary, it just prolongs the tension. 
  • Plan and prepare what you are going to say. What will you say when people comment on your shape? On your food choice? On your lack of food choice?
  • If possible, reach out to a safe person that will be at the gathering to let them know how they can support you. 

If you are not sure about seeking professional help, follow this website to take a free screening and find a therapist or treatment near you. 

Written by: Catherine Virden