Let’s face it; this time of year can be difficult for many people. For those working on recovery from an eating disorder, the new year brings a bombardment of messages about diet culture and how our bodies should look, all packaged as “resolutions” that can make you feel inadequate if you can’t follow through with them. The shorter days and longer nights of winter can also be difficult for those struggling with seasonal depression and can increase the likelihood of isolating or and the risk for a slip or a relapse.
There are ways to counter all this, of course. Here are some of my personal favorites:
1. Reframe. This year, I encourage you to shift your “Resolutions” from something we need to “fix” or “resolve” about ourselves to a recommitment to recovery goals. Try focusing your energy on what you’ve have been able to accomplish in the past year (no matter how small) and come up with ways to continue building upon past successes.
2. Reflect. There is ample opportunity this time of year to think about all of the things we are thankful for. I like using the changing of the calendar as a prompt for a journal entry on what I’m grateful for.
3. Rest. Having some time off from work or a break between school semesters can mean an opportunity to get some well-deserved rest and engage in some self-care.
4. Read. A great strategy is to spend time reading things that actively counter the seemingly endless stream of messages in the media – and sometimes from the people around us – about diet and exercise. Quotes, mantras and various words of wisdom about self-acceptance, intuitive or mindful eating, and recovery are plentiful and can be very helpful.
One of my l favorite pieces to revisit is Ellyn Satter’s “What is Normal Eating?” Satter is a Registered Dietitian, family therapist, author and creator of the Satter Feeding Dynamics model and the Satter Eating Competence model. It is a sensible, sustainable, compassionate and forgiving approach to our relationship with food.
According to Satter, normal eating is:
- Going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
- Being able to choose food you enjoy and eat it and truly get enough of it – not just stop eating because you think you should.
- Being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
- Giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.
- Mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way.
- Leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.
- Overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.
- Trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
- Somethjing that takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
- Flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.
There is no denying that we live in a world that can’t seem to make up its mind about food and exercise – and that many people with personal experiences around disordered eating and eating disorders can sometimes feel triggered or confused by diet culture and judgments about what we are or are not eating. So go ahead and post Satter’s words of wisdom on your refrigerator or share them with a friend or loved one who may be feeling overwhelmed this New Year.
Make this year a revolutionary one that incorporates flexibility, trust and enjoyment into your life and your relationship with food. Aas always, if you need additional support or questions answered we are here to help.
Fiona LaRosa-Waters is Community Relations Specialist for Walden Behavioral Care. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services at Lesley University, and is currently pursuing an M.Ed in Health Education through the Eating Disorders Institute at Plymouth State University. Prior to coming to Walden, Fiona held positions as a professional outreach representative for eating disorder, substance use, and trauma treatment facilities, was a counselor in a treatment center for adult women with eating disorders and provided outpatient case management for clients struggling with addictions and eating disorders. She is passionate about helping people locate resources to support treatment and recovery, advancing education about eating disorders and addiction and about connecting with the mental health community.