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In celebration of both the holidays and the upcoming release of the Tenth Anniversary Edition of my first book, Life Without Ed, I included an excerpt below. I wish you and your family the very best this holiday season. My husband, David, and I are at my parents’ ranch celebrating our first Christmas together. We are headed off to go ice skating soon. I hope you enjoy much fun-filled time with your family and friends. Don’t invite Ed to the celebrations!

 

Holidays  
Excerpt from Life Without Ed

Americans like to eat. And we use every holiday as an excuse to do just that. On the Fourth of July, we have barbecues. For birthdays, we light a cake on fire and have someone blow it out. Yes, this is a day when we actually let someone blow all over our food before we eat it. On Valentine’s Day, we hope to receive a box of chocolates from our sweetheart despite the fact that we do not like half of the candies that come in the box—not to mention that we often have no idea what we are placing into our mouths until we sink our teeth into each little chocolate surprise. We let our kids wander around to random houses all over town in search of candy on Halloween. And, of course, there is Thanksgiving Day—a day in which countless people act as if they have an eating disorder whether they do or not. We like food, and we love to celebrate it.

Because holidays revolve around food, they can be really difficult for those of us with eating disorders. Ed will try to get us to make exceptions to recovery during a holiday. For instance, he might say that it is OK to starve all day on Thanksgiving so that you can stuff yourself at dinner. Ed will say it’s OK to binge and purge on candy at Halloween. After all, it is only one day out of the year. It is very important that we continue on with our recovery behaviors and not let our guard down over the holidays.

While we must face food at every holiday celebration, on certain holidays, we also have other added stressors. There is no doubt that specific holidays make us busier than our regular day-to-day lives. When we have more on our plates, we are often tempted to put less effort into recovery—skipping doctors’ appointments, missing therapy sessions, and not taking time to eat proper meals.

What we really need to do with the added holiday stressors from food issues to family problems is have more support in place. In reality, we need to make extra support calls and write in our journals even more than usual. We need to make a better effort to take care of ourselves. If we go the extra mile, the holiday itself will go by much more smoothly.

Eric's and my first Christmas tree as a married couple
This is David’s and my first Christmas tree as a married couple. Next year, we may go for a bit bigger!

Each holiday gets better for me with each passing year. Thanksgiving this year was better than last year. Birthday parties at the office get easier as each one goes by. In fact, today, I actually enjoy getting together with everyone and celebrating a birthday. I do not obsess about whether or not I am allowed to have a piece of cake anymore. When it comes to the holidays, it just takes a willingness to hold onto what I have learned in recovery and a lot of practice. Take what you learn from each holiday with you to the next. As time goes by, you will think less and less about the food and stress attached to each particular day and more and more about what each holiday really means. Before you know it, you might even find yourself having a good time. Imagine that.

Please post comments. I will do my best to answer all questions.

For further articles about the holidays and recovery, click here.
See “Help for the Holidays” toward the bottom of the page. 

  • Stacey Rosenfeld

    Hi Jenni,

    I quoted that passage in my book coming out this May! Congrats on your marriage and on the 10th anniversary edition of your book! Happy holidays. . .

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Thanks, Stacey! That is so cool that you quoted this passage. I really appreciate your support of my work. Congrats on your book! I look forward to reading it.

  • Meg Burton

    I definitely agree that every year the holidays get SO much easier! It is definitely possible to have a good holiday season with friends and family again. 🙂

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Thanks for sharing, Meg!

  • Leanne Arnott

    Hi Jenni,
    I am a mom of 4 on the west coast of Canada and reading your book. My 14 year old daughter has ED and has needed weeks of hospitalization and been in and out of emergency. She is in weekly sessions at the local ED clinic but she doesn’t want to get better. Isn’t that the necessary first step to recover? What do we do so that she wants to get better? What can we do to help her if she continues to want to stay sick?
    A desperate mom,
    Leanne

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Hi Leanne – I am so sorry to hear that your daughter is struggling. But that is great that she is getting help. Proper nourishment is key, and treatment can help ensure that she is getting that. A malnourished brain might not be able to see the benefits associated with getting better, but a nourished brain can interpret the world more clearly. (Looking back, I can see that my view of the world was VERY distorted when I was malnourished.) In my latest book, “Almost Anorexic,” my coauthor Jennifer J. Thomas, Ph.D. and I discuss this topic:

      “You may have heard that your loved ones won’t get better unless they are doing it for themselves. We completely disagree with this line of thought. If your loved one lacks the personal desire to get better, you can certainly encourage him or her to do it for any other greater purpose or cause. For example, some will want to get better for the people they love. In the beginning, it doesn’t matter why someone is getting help—to make someone else happy, to go back to college, or for another reason. All that matters is that they are getting support. People often start off getting better “for a loved one,” but after they are no longer malnourished and can think more clearly, they end up doing it for themselves as well.”

      You might want to check out this link as well (a helpful table from the book): http://www.jennischaefer.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/AlmostAnorexic_Table14.pdf

      Further, you might want to visit http://www.feast-ed.org to connect with other parents for support and ideas.

      Hang in there. Full recovery is possible. It just takes time and patience. Recovery is more like a marathon, rather than a sprint. But it does get better!