Holiday Eats, Then and Now: How My Holiday Feast Mindset Has Changed After Recovery
When I had an eating disorder, the holidays would usually go like this- after months of restricting almost all foods, the festive feasts were my chance to go for it. They were my chance to finally eat what I wanted- food galore! Succumbing to the last ounce of willpower I had, the floodgates would open. With a “screw it, it’s the holidays!” mentality, I’d blaze through an entire tray of cheese and crackers, fistfuls of cookies, and lots and lots sour cream and onion of dip (the family fav)!
Although I had blessed the holiday as a day to be “off my diet,” I was really white-knuckling through the entire food rebellion. Terrified of all the “tempting” foods that surrounded me, I’d braced myself for the feelings soon to follow. By the end of holiday party I’d be too full to function, and spend the remaining hours of the day feeling gross-lazy on the couch, unable to move because of a sloshy stomach and feeling like I’m going to be sick.
As a person with an eating disorder, the holidays were complicated, emotional and uncomfortable. I felt like I was teetering on tight rope, trying to balance my eating disorder with my hope to enjoy the holidays and traditional foods that used to bring me so much joy.
Seven years later, I approach these meals as a healed person.
Although it took some time, I had to dispel my fear of gaining weight and my attachment to dieting before I could experience holiday food as gloriously as I had as a kid. Changing my mindset took a few years, but I managed to make it happen. Thankfully, I can eat all the holiday goodies with an authentic smile on my face now.
As a recovered person, I no longer see holiday meals as “feasts.” The word feast implies a large meal and eating a lot, which can feel borderline bingey to someone like me. Instead, I view holiday meals more like glamorous version of dinner. While it’s fun to see all my favorite holiday foods appear on one table, I no longer have a preoccupied obsession with the holiday meal or the need to eat everything in sight.
When I approach the holiday dinner table I’m no longer strategizing or counting calories or calculating the gym time needed to make up for it later. My relationship with the holiday meal used to feel as tedious and overwhelming as crafting the perfect text to my crush. Now it’s more of a “new number, who dis?” mentality. Super casual and detached.
Here’s another recovered holiday secret- I don’t obsess over the meal because have been allowing myself to eat these foods all year. That’s right, all damn year (the joys of not restricting are so real)! This means that the festive menu excites me, but it doesn’t feel like a limited time offer that I need to take full advantage of.
Let me explain. If I want grandma’s pumpkin pie in July, I will bake it and eat it in July. If I’m craving a turkey dinner, I’m fully aware that I could go to Boston Market and get one whenever I want.
All of these holiday foods are in fact every day foods! They’re seriously available at any time! We don’t need the calendar to be another reason why we restrict our access to these foods.
As a recovered person, sometimes I say I have a permanent dieting “hangover.” I just can’t do it anymore. I’m over it. Because dieting let me down in a massive way, I’ve been conditioned to stay far, far away from diets. During the holidays I embrace food. This is different from the “screw it, it’s the holidays!” attitude I had with my previous eating disorder because this time it’s not a green light to binge. Food is part of the human experience. It’s also meant to enhance the holidays and bring family and friends together. Embracing all food and allowing it to have a positive impact on your holiday is something to look forward to. Having the ability to make empowered food decisions and keep me connected to my body during the holidays is something I owe to my own recovery.
Meg McCabe is a Life Coach and Eating Disorder Recovery Coach located in Boston, MA. She's fully recovered from anorexia and bulimia and works to help people heal their relationship with food and their body. Meg utilizes her platform to interview recovered survivors about their recovery journeys and raise awareness by having vulnerability and honest conversations about eating disorders. When Meg is not coaching, she's the Communities of HEALing Lead for the Boston Chapter of Project Heal, and a health educator at Boston Children's Hospital. In her free time Meg loves to dance, take care of her plants, and listen to podcasts. Visit her Website.