Christmas is a time of year most people are crazily excited about… it often seems the only ones who aren’t are those with family difficulties and those who have suffered a loss. But there’s also a group that tries to stay unseen over Christmas and so gets overlooked:
While often forgotten, people with eating disorders, disordered eating and/or body image issues can really struggle at Christmas.
Food is pushed front and centre not just on December 25th, but in the month leading up to it – mince pies, chocolate and treats flood the office, mulled wine is everywhere, party invites and dinners and drinks keep coming… and then again afterwards right up until New Year. Not to mention all the chocolates that get gifted that lie around for ages into January and February…
And people talk NON STOP about how calories don’t count at Christmas, how they’ll ‘be good’ in January, how much turkey they plan to eat…
There’s so much loaded language around ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food (remember: no food is good or bad or intrinsically moral – there are foods that are more and less nutrient dense) and this dialogue is normally pretty constant. At Christmas it can go into overdrive.
If you suffer (or have previously suffered) with EDs, disordered eating or body image issues you will know what a toll Christmas can take on your mental health and how difficult it can be to not only have so much public focus on food, but constant commentary on what you eat (or choose not to eat):
“Go on, it’s Christmas!”
“Have another one, go onnnnn!”
“Don’t you like mince pies?”
“Calories don’t count at Christmas, you can burn it off in the new year!”
“You’re tiny, what are you talking about! Have some!”
“Please finish those off so that I don’t, I’m trying to be good.”
“Oh no, I’m being good now so I can go crazy on Christmas day!”
“Why aren’t you drinking?”
“If you’re not hungry, just have a piece of cake, it’s amazing!”
“It’s nice to see you finally eat something!”
“I’ve never seen you eat that much!”
The list goes on, and on. And what seems innocent on the surface can actually be at best, a bit stressful, and at worst, quite traumatic.
So this is a plea from someone who has been there, stressed, eaten and made her self sick at Christmas – please don’t say the above, or the below.
Please don’t comment on other peoples’ food choices.
Please don’t ask why someone isn’t drinking, or is eating that.
Please don’t comment on how much or little people are eating.
Not at home, not at the office, not to friends or family.
If you are concerned about someone, there’s a serious conversation to be had, but that is very different from “oh you shouldn’t be dieting over Christmas!” or “why aren’t you having any of this…?”
Those comments aren’t productive. They can trigger people, make them anxious and encourage damaging behavior, entrenching already-difficult beliefs and emotions about peoples’ relationships with food and their bodies.
For now, though, just be compassionate, and respect that food is personal. Don’t pile on pressure and stress by constantly referencing it – EDs and disordered eating aren’t always visible, and you never know who’s listening.
I don’t know about you, but every single day I feel a bit sick about the amount of plastic packaging we see everywhere – and yes, I’m an eco-hypocrite because I have my plastic kobox bottles, for example (although I reuse them as much as I can!), or buy the odd innocent green smoothie which is of course in a plastic bottle (and many other eco-sins, I’m sure!).
Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg have brought sustainability to the attention of the mainstream and it’s starting to (finally!) be cool for normal people to care about the planet – no longer the realm of tree-hugging hippies (nothing wrong with being this, but it’s just less relatable for many of us!), the online world is starting to embrace sustainability and eco-consciousness.
Xmas is a time of year most people LOVE (I’m less big on it myself, but trying to get less grinchy so that I’m more fun for my family!) but it’s also filled with waste, waste, waste.
Here are some simple hacks for trying to make your Xmas more sustainable this year, and if you try them you’re not alone – I’m working to implement them too! They’re easy and unobtrusive so they won’t ruin your holiday, and just remember – every little action makes a little difference, and if we all made changes it would be AMAZING!
Xmas (Christmas to you religious folks!) is a Christian festival that derives from Pagan Yule/Winter Solstice, and the pagans were waaaaaaaaaaaay more in touch with nature, so in a lot of ways, going back to a greener, more natural Xmas is going back to the heart of it.
The greenest thing we can do is probably to not buy gifts at all, but I know for lots of you that won’t feel like an option. Hell, my other half and I have actually campaigned for this for years, believe it or not, but my family are steadfast present people and it’s hard not to buy some things. So I think the options are:
Experience gifts – I feel like these are the best way to go! Take someone to dinner, or to the theatre or cinema, or cook them an amazing meal and take them out to do their favourite activity.
Hand-make gifts… can you bake cookies for someone, make sloe gin for someone else (both amazing gifts I’ve received in the past!) Can you paint or write or draw something for someone? Or if you’re a musician, write music for someone?
Buy vintage or second-hand… we all are starting to wake up to how bad the fast fashion industry is, and so consider going vintage or thrifting for fashion lovers in your life. Charity shops may not have seemed sexy options in the past, but you’d be surprised what gems you can occasionally pick up.
Make donations to the persons’ favourite charity – for our wedding, we asked for donations to Girls Not Brides instead of gifts. For animal lovers, you could donate to WWF for Xmas, or the RSPCA. For eco-warriors, pick a charity that’s helping the planet like Friends of the Earth or the Environmental Working Group . For arts lovers, donate to a project or ballet company… you get the idea.
Reduce the list of who to buy for – can you just buy for peoples’ kids, for example, and do a ‘no presents for adults rule’?
Don’t use that plasticy-wrapping paper – you know, the metallic style ones? They’re actually metalised-plastic and non-recyclable.
Try to save and re-use wrapping paper and gift bags! Or better yet, don’t wrap at all!
Give lovely gifts that may help and educate – for example, Max La Manna’s amazing bookMore Plants, Less Wasteis a delicious recipe book and teaches you how to produce less waste… win win. Or check out the recipe books below with plant-based recipes which will help you change your diet for a better planet (you don’t have to be vegan to reduce your meat and animal product consumption!)
Consider your Christmas Tree
If you already have a fake tree, get as MUCH USE OUT OF IT AS POSSIBLE, but the thing about plastic trees is they eventually will end up in landfill.
If you must buy a fake tree, try ebay and gumtree for a secondhand one.
If you’re going for a real tree, the best option is finding a farm where you can cut your own, but that may not be possible for everyone.
The next best thing is to find locally grown trees where you can.
This article by Eco Age gives you the full lowdown on how to make sure your Xmas tree is more sustainability friendly, and even gives options for renting a Christmas tree! ❤
Eat more plants!
Xmas is very often a ‘bring out the meat!’ fest, but if we all reduce our animal product consumption just a bit it can make a huge difference for the planet’s health (and our own!)
No-one is saying you have to go vegan or vegetarian (although by all means do, or try, if you fancy – it’s far better for the planet and there are SO MANY delicious options these days!) but cutting down as much as you can is definitely a good thing.
Can you swap pigs in blankets for a more plant-based recipe?
Can you make your other meals over the holiday season plant-based?
Have you ever tried vegan and vegetarian Christmas food? It’s incredible! Maybe give it a go this year. Or do just a chicken and a veggie dish, rather than 3 massive birds! Anything you can cut down.
Can you swap a cheese board for a plant-based dessert?!
Here are some amazing cookbooks to help you find plant-based inspiration:
I don’t want you to get stressed and eco-anxious over the festive season, but I think education is only ever a good thing, especially given that some people feel talking about sustainability at Christmas is ‘grinchy’ and ‘OTT’. We are overwhelmingly in an environmental crisis, unfortunately, but we can do SO MUCH to help, and we just have to be willing to try. You don’t have to live in a hut in the woods and only forage for berries. Just do a little bit.
It might also be good to think of a couple of small things you can try to do for 2020 New Year’s Resolutions. I’m hoping to make mine:
No more fast fashion! No buying new clothing for a year
I hope some of these resonate a little bit or seem achievable. I think little changes bit by bit are the best way to go to make the change sustainable (wheeeeeeeeeey!) for you in the long term.
It doesn’t have to be everything, all at once, but if we all do our best (and instead of attacking everyone else for doing it wrong, or not doing enough, we focus on living our best lives and doing as much as we can ourselves!) it can only be positive.
Happy Xmas from the reluctant Xmas celebrator (I’m more of a pagan at heart haha!)
So everyone loves a bit of Christmas, right? Mulled wine, fairy lights, chocolate everywhere, epic roast dinners… but it also is the time of year where you’re expected to see EVERYBODY before the New Year, party every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then the day itself can be a political hotbed of family in-fighting!
Or may you have to do a lot of travelling. Or see relations you’re not hugely cool with. Or maybe you have eating issues, or social anxiety and the pressure is just too much.
I get it – our family is craaaaaaaay and this year we’ve opted to hole up at home in London, just me and the Boy and not do the big stressful family tour thing!
I also used to have an eating disorder as many of you know, and now I’m doing #100DaysSober I have had to turn down a LOT of alcohol at client drinks and office and general Christmas parties over this period.
Top tips for staying sane…!
Read on to discover my fave mental and physical wellbeing tips for the festive season, including mental health, food, fitness, alcohol, eating disorders, office parties, and family politics…
Just say ‘no’ to FOMO.
You don’t have to go to every party. Or if you do, you don’t have to stay until 2am. No-one has a gun to your head. Prioritise what YOU want. It’s hard at first, but when you get used to it, it’s empowering.
If you don’t want to go to something, apologise and suggest meeting up at a time more convenient for you (be it Jan, Feb, March, whatever!)
You can be polite and still take care of yourself. And remember: you are responsible for your actions, but not for anyone else’s reactions. That’s on them.
A therapist told me that once and it’s changed my life.
Make some time for you
Remember to schedule in some down time to treat yourself, be it some time to have a long bath, or lie-in, or read alone… whatever you need to re-charge so you don’t feel totally frazzled.
You do you, no explanation needed
If you don’t want to drink alcohol, or eat something, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. A smile and ‘no thank you, I’m fine,’ should suffice. If people push, you can firmly say you don’t want to talk about it.
If you’re hosting parties, take note:
Don’t ask people why they’re not drinking alcohol. It’s not your business.
Don’t ask people why they’re eating / not eating something, or make comments about them being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘treating themselves’ or ‘behaving’ or ‘staying on track’. It’s not your business, and if people do have eating disorders / disordered eating, this is supremely unhelpful.
Meditaaaaaaaate, meditate, meditate
It doesn’t have to be hippy-dippy. Even 5-10 minutes a day on an app like Calm, Headspace, Buddhify or Happy Not Perfect can help you reset, destress and relax. Breathing deeply taps into your parasympathetic nervous system (your ‘rest and digest’) system.
Take the pressure off
Remember, perfection is impossible. There’s no such thing as a perfect Christmas. People may not always get on 100% of the time. Things go wrong, turkeys burn, dogs eat the Christmas cake… c’est la vie.
Try to enjoy spending time with family, time off work, time eating amazing food, and stop expecting a chocolate box picture perfect Victorian Christmas with angels singing, family looking angelic and not annoying each other… don’t set impossible standards for it to live up to.
Christmas is a time to enjoy food. Enjoy it for what it is and don’t stress about weight. The trick is to try and eat when you’re hungry and not gorge when you’re full, or keep picking at quality street.
Savour your food. Focus on the smell, taste and texture. Have whatever you like – but just take it slow, chew it, enjoy it, and stop when you’re full – you can have more when you’re hungry again! This ‘naughty’ mentality means people binge because they feel Christmas is a free pass to be bad, but in reality there’s no good and bad – you just need to listen to your body and appetite, and not go overboard.
Over Christmas, yes there’ll be more off types of food you’d usually try to moderate better – chocolate and cake etc. That’s okay. Don’t sweat it. Just try to eat as mindfully as possible, and focus on getting those vitamins and minerals in as well – lots of veggies with that roast!
Alcohol… *mistletoe and wine*
If you drink alcohol, try to make sure you’re drinking mindfully and enjoying it, not downing the bottle…! And fundamentally, keep hydrating with water as much as possible.
Ideally I guess don’t drink, or limit it to very small amounts, as studies now show there’s technically no ‘safe’ amount of alcohol, but realistically people will drink, and life is for living and enjoying so just drink in moderation, stay hydrated and be safe!
Just remember, alcohol can make you more jittery and anxious, so consume with caution!
I’m not saying you need to rigorously gym over Christmas, but regular walking and a home workout or two (use this site, or apps like Sweat with Kayla, or free youtube videos!) can get rid of that stress and/or lethargy that can accompany the Christmas period. A crisp, Christmassy walk outside in the cold can really clear the head!
Movement is super important for stress, anxiety, depression and mood disorders as endorphins are nature’s happy pill!
Take a deep breath and walk away from family politics
Christmas gatherings aren’t the best place to thrash out serious issues*. Try to smile it out and not engage. Leave the room if you need to. If it’s normal family annoyances and feuds, breathe deeply, go and meditate or walk for a while and move on. You can argue later when you’re calmer, and not in front of all of your relations and likely to upset yourself and multiple others. (Unless it’s very serious: see below!)
*Obviously some things are intolerable, whatever the time of year. So equally take care of yourself, be safe, and you can and should just leave or walk away if something is dangerous or damaging. It’s okay to put yourself first.
Christmas should be a time to reflect on the year and all you’ve accomplished and everything amazing that’s happened, and to enjoy time with family and friends.
(I’m not religious so that’s it for me anyway! If you’re religious I guess it’s extra special!)
Be grateful – for family, friends, presents, food, a roof over your head, an income, a job, your body, the clothes on your back… when you’re truly feeling grateful it’s hard to be properly stressed, and there are people out there far worse off than us. Perspective is all it takes. There’s a lovely meditation called ‘The Universe’ on the app Buddhify, which helps put everything in perspective.