Surviving the holidays and staying in recovery (a short but effective blog)

Family celebration

This time last year it felt like everyone who knew what I was going through, including my own self, was worried about me. The holidays were a toss up there was going to be alcohol, tons of food, and my gym at the time was closed on holidays. Sure there were obviously steps I was going to take to stay in recovery but it was going to be a really testing time.

I am super proud to say that I made it through the holidays without incident, which was HUGE for me. I feel like making it through the holidays made recovery easier after that. Once I knew I was strong enough to make it through “holiday eating” I knew day to day living in recovery was achievable for me.

So since I spent my blog “Viewing food as the enemy” talking a little bit about the holidays as well as relationship with food, I won’t go into much more detail.  I will jump right into tips for staying in recovery (go ahead and read that blog if you have not already). 

Please note that most of these tips can be for anyone for staying on track and not completely giving up over the holidays.

MY tips and what I did to stay in recovery:

1) Stick to your diet plan 80-90 percent of the week. Give yourself a chance to ENJOY the food you are eating on the holidays. In your “diet” (diet is in quotes because its a lifestyle not a diet) you should be giving yourself at least a cheat meal a week to reset your body and mind.  If you don’t understand this concept think of it this way, when all you eat is what you perceive as healthy for you and NEVER allow yourself to eat the foods you enjoy what happens? You binge or you fall of track because you can’t hold out on your cravings any longer.

Use the holiday itself as your “treat/cheat meal”. Every other meal of the week stay on track, eat healthy, and make healthy choices. If you make healthy food choices every/most meals besides your holiday meal you are much more likely to not feel as guilty about eating something bad on the holidays. I know hearing eat every other meal healthy sounds a little daunting but keep in mind when I say healthy foods I mean actual well balanced, healthy, and nutritious foods. I don’t mean deprive yourself of carbs, deprive yourself of eating, I don’t mean deprive yourself at all! There are plenty of healthy options to eat that are delicious and a thousand different ways to cook them. Turkey bacon, protein pancakes, fruit, sweet potato, whole grain bread, etc. The list goes on and the way you can cook them is endless. You don’t have to deprive yourself or keep a narrow foods list like I did when I was “eating healthy”. Even during a normal time of year be expansive and explore healthy food recipes versus sticking to the same thing day in and day out. Nobody wants to eat for fuel they want to enjoy their food it makes them more likely to stay on track.

The point is eat healthy and take care of your body (exercise, be active, practice self-love) all week and allow yourself to be a little flexible on the holiday ITSELF (not every day surrounding the holiday).

2) Everything in moderation. Your family more than likely does thanksgiving/ christmas with all the food right there out on the table or buffet style. That sure does make it tempting to pile it all on your plate at once. The problem with that is now it is tempting to eat that ginormous sized portion of food on you plate.

Moderation is taking what you feel like you’ll eat at first. Just put a little bit on your plate and eat it THEN see how you feel. Are you full? Or are you still a little hungry? If you are full then let it be you don’t need to eat more at that moment! If you aren’t you can allow yourself a little bit more food! The key is listening to you body and how it ties into your emotions, for example if you are overly full you are more likely to be upset with yourself and do something stupid. However, if you eat,not in excess, but for enjoyment and don’t make yourself overly full you are more likely to be happier with yourself.

Think of it this way you have two options. One, watch everyone else you love enjoy a nice meal and completely deprive yourself of it, which most likely end in you binging the food because you don’t want to hold out anymore. Two, you can enjoy the food and the occasion with your family and have a great experience where you stayed in control and got to enjoy the food.

3) Don’t overdo or even do the alcohol. I won’t lie I drank thanksgiving and Christmas even though it was a huge trigger for me. I know stupid of me, however I stayed in touch with my body and listened to when I felt it was saying if you have another drink you’re going to disassociate with yourself (I still practice this to THIS day and I haven’t gotten sick solely from drinking to much in forever). That was a little reckless of me considering it was my first holidays in recovery but I am not perfect. Remember I was in recovery I didn’t have it all figured out (still don’t) there were BOUND to be bumps in the road. If you have issues with overeating when you are drinking then avoid the alcohol so that you can enjoy your food yet stay in control of how much you eat. My problem with when I drank to much is I started not caring and I ate EVERYTHING in site EVERYTHING. I was a lot more controlled by the time thanksgiving came around but I was beyond far from cured. It is a holiday but you ARE in recovery so you do need to take measures to control yourself even if it means cutting out a privilege like drinking (drinking is an privilege eating is not you must eat to survive)

If you DO NOT have an issue with alcohol and alcohol isn’t a trigger of yours STILL drink in moderation. Listen to your body and stay in control. I don’t care if drinking isn’t one of your triggers the majority of people lose control when they drink to much. The key to staying in recovery is BEING IN CONTROL. Once you lose control of your thoughts, feelings, and your sense of self it makes falling out of recovery easier. In order to stay in recovery we need to be aware of our bodies and our feelings. We need to listen to when our body is telling us we are getting full so we don’t eat anymore, we need to have the self control to eat smaller portions slowly so we don’t end up binging, we need to stay in touch with our emotions so we can control our actions. Drinking too much alcohol can take all of that away. I am not dumb I know  some of you may drink over the holidays but if you do tread carefully.

I strongly suggest you DON’T drink over the holidays I think your chances of staying in recovery are 10X better if you do not add alcohol into the mix. 

4) Tell someone. Tell someone who will be with you at thanksgiving/christmas about your issues. You are not burdening the ones you love, your situation is what it is, and I guarantee you that your loved ones would much rather you make it through the holiday without causing harm to yourself then living in ignorance to your situation. When my mom found out we were at an event and I am happy she knew because for the first time in forever I got to enjoy the wonderful event that took place. I knew she knew and I didn’t want to let her down so instead I enjoyed myself and didn’t do anything that would ruin her or my time. It may be hard for your loved ones to hear this, but like I said if they are truly your loved ones they care more about your health then you burdening them. The truth is, it is more of a burden to them if you actually act on impulses then having to maybe keep an extra eye out for you.

Having someone at your meal who knows what you’re going through gives you a sense of accountability. You can’t sneak off, you can’t not eat, etc. This may make you uncomfortable but if you are serious about staying in recovery I suggest doing it because things that make you uncomfortable are going to be what help you recover.

5) Stay in touch with your therapist/support system. Don’t fall off you therapy or treatment on the holidays. Fully throw yourself into it, this is the time you will be put to the test, and this is the time you should be utilizing your methods. I suggest finding a buddy, probably somebody ahead of you in recovery, and talk to them over the holidays. Don’t pair with someone that is unsure of their recovery and has negative feelings still associated with it. If that’s where YOU are at that is where you are at BUT in looking for a “mentor” you want to make sure it is somebody who can talk to you positively about the situation not pull you down.

You wouldn’t want someone who is going to encourage you to act on your disease, someone who is going to share dark thoughts with you, or someone who is at the same place in recovery as you. Can you support these people who aren’t doing well in recovery? Of course you can support them but you also want to make sure BOTH of you find a positive influencer who is going to encourage you to stay in recovery during the holidays. Maybe get a few people together and you guys can find someone who is doing well in recovery or is recovered. Never hesitate to reach out to people who are open about their recovery process over social media or in person. They are usually more than willing to help you and guide you in the right direction. I know I can’t cure anyone but when I talk to them I like to be an ear they can talk to and I like to guide them towards help and treatment. Find someone who will do that for you rather than support your negative actions and tell you its okay to do what you are doing. Like I said you can support others on their journey but the person you are reaching out to for actual help and accountability should have a positive outlook on recovery.

Most importantly, you must continue your professional treatment. Finding someone with experience in recovery is great but people like that, including myself, do not always have professional training in how to handle helping people with this disease. There are many situations that are beyond our abilities to handle and while it may be easier talking to us I highly suggest understanding that your therapist, treatment counselor, etc are all in your corner. Make the most of your time with them, listen to what they have to tell you, BE OPEN AND HONEST ABOUT EVERYTHING, and trust them as the key to your recover especially over the holidays.

6) Avoid weighing yourself, examining yourself, etc. After your meal just let yourself be. Give yourself time to digest and your body to get back to normal don’t step on a scale the following few days and avoid spending excess time in front of a mirror. Doing so is going to make you more likely to be upset and triggering for you. Just because we become bloated from a single meal does not mean our bodies are ruined forever so not looking at these changes after eating can help you avoid getting down on yourself.

Most importantly learn to enjoy yourself over these holidays. They are meant to be happy and joyous time with family. Don’t let the disease take your memories from you. You want to be able to look back and say you enjoyed your time with your loved ones, you enjoyed your holidays, and that you enjoyed life. You don’t want to look back and say the disease took moments of your life away from you.

General tips for anyone trying to stay on track during the holidays:

  1. Follow tips 1-3 for those in recovery
  2. If you are drinking alcohol drink things that contain lower calories. For example, a vodka tonic has a lot less calories than a vodka cranberry or a vodka with soda.
  3. Stay on track of your workouts, don’t fall off just because it is a holiday week. Getting the usual amount of workouts you get in normally helps it make it a normal week for you.
  4. Offer to cook dishes that you may want to eat as a healthier alternative for the holiday. If you have a problem with the dishes being served and need something for your diet or to stay on track then cook it! There is nothing wrong with bringing something that fits your needs to the table.
  5. Enjoy yourself. Life is about balance so don’t deprive yourself on the holidays your goals are still achievable if you give yourself a meal off. You don’t need to go absolutely crazy for three days straight but learn to enjoy yourself for the day.
  6. Trying to avoid going back for seconds hours later? Bring your own snacks to eat while everyone is going back for more. There are plenty of healthy snack options out there.

There are plenty of tips, recipes, resources, etc out there that give you the tools to stay on track during your holiday season. Never hesitate to reach out for help or support this holiday season. Remember its supposed to be a happy time so don’t let it be a bad experience for you.

happy-holidays[1]

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