National Eating Disorders Association
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Recovery

Many people look forward to the winter holiday season for time off to relax and be with loved ones. For others, this time of year brings an influx of complicated feelings. For those of us struggling with body image and an unhealthy relationship with food, already aggravated by how central food becomes during the holidays, the pressure to spend time with family can be overwhelming. 

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Planning a wedding can be stressful at times—says every person I’ve ever met. The details, the pressure to please everyone, and the expectations we create are things that cause us to stress out at moments. Yet, for me, planning a wedding brought along an entirely different set of worries on top of the common ones. I had to plan a wedding with one goal in mind: to stay strong in my eating disorder recovery. 

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The holiday season is my favorite time of year. I know I’m not alone in that. Who wouldn’t love home, hearth, and family all bundled together in a peppermint-scented haze of love and gratitude?

But ever since I was diagnosed with anorexia, the beloved season has also become a huge challenge.

Just a few years ago, right before Hannuka (I’m Jewish), I was in treatment. Preparing us for the upcoming holiday, the hospital brought us all pies as a snack.

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Melinda developed an eating disorder while she served in the military from 2003-2008. When she met her husband Jim several years later, she was still battling binge eating disorder and bulimia. They’ve coped as a couple as Melinda began her recovery for her eating disorder.

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I am enough. These three words appear in memes and on social media. We fling them around in the recovery community and silk screen them onto shirts. While in treatment, therapists repeated them and encouraged me to apply them to myself. With a flip of a pronoun, they altered the phrase and turned it into a mirror directed squarely at me. “You are enough,” they said. “You are enough.”

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More often than not these days, my eating disorder feels like a distant memory. I have to think really hard to put myself back in my own shoes. It was only five years ago that my entire life revolved around bingeing and purging and starving and drinking (and then bingeing and purging and starving and drinking), and yet that life feels so foreign to me now. Which is an incredible privilege. And a huge victory. I struggled for nearly a decade with anorexia and bulimia. It infected every corner of my life by the time I crashed and burned my way into treatment.

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Before I sat down to write this blog for NEDA (a dream come true), I wrote down a grocery list with all my favorites foods. This is a normal part of life for some, but it was just a couple years ago when I would have severe panic attacks when my mother came home with groceries. The irony of it all is that I started working in a grocery store right out of treatment. I would bring in the shopping carts and find all of the left behind grocery lists. I saved all of the lists as a reminder to me of how badly I wanted a healthy relationship with food.

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Life is not meant to be lived alone. We are here to empower one another and to be there for one another through the different positive or negative journeys we face. I have begun to realize that more and more. Indeed, it is the people who are around us—particularly during our struggles—that push us forward and allow us to conquer the battles we face. 

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HGTV hummed in the background and a stack of gossip magazines were lazily stacked on the table next to me. My hands rested on my lap, tightly woven together. Thumbs anxiously pressed against each other, I hummed to myself. A combination of Beyoncé and Sylvan Esso circulated through my head — my pump up music driving to the office. I was nervous.

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Surviving the holidays when you have an eating disorder is not always easy. If you are like many of my clients, you are so not looking forward to the holiday parties, events, dinners, and plans.

For most, this is overwhelming because you know there will be food involved and fear is what causes you anxiety. You are worried that people will judge what you are eating, make comments about your body, or someone will say something to upset you.

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