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Mind your mental health 4: Eating disorders

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By Aisling O’Connor

 

With the holidays fast approaching, there’s joy in the air and good spirit all around, but this isn’t the case for everyone. For many, the Christmas season can be an extremely difficult and lonely time.

 

For anyone suffering from an eating disorder, Christmas is perhaps the most stressful time of the year due to the abundance of food and the expectation to indulge. Like before, we have some tips to help you look after yourself and stay safe over the holidays.

 

  • Nothing bad will happen to you if you eat, it may feel that way, but you will not wake up the next morning obese. Try to keep this in mind.
  • Another thing to remember is that you need food to survive, our bodies convert what we eat into energy. Without it, we end up too tired to do anything. Food is not the enemy here, but the harmful voice inside your head trying to convince you of that is.
  • Learn to love yourself, it’s easier said than done, but once accomplished is worth it. Wear clothes that make you feel good and confident, stick a note on your mirror telling yourself you are beautiful, when you go to criticize your body tell yourself what you like about it and don’t be afraid to be vain.
  • Talk about how you’re feeling with a friend or family member. This is not something you can battle on your own so the extra support will be beneficial. Even having someone do something as simple as telling you that you’re okay during a meal is hugely reassuring.
  • Ask for help, don’t leave it until it’s too late. UL offers a counselling service, but you can also go to therapists, doctors and the in and/or out-patient programmes through hospitals. The sooner you acknowledge the issue the less likely you are to be left with lifelong health implications.
  • Make a meal plan, and not one that restricts calorie intake. The rule of thumb is 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Try to stick to it, even if it means gradually increasing what you’re eating over a period of time. Little progress is better than no progress. Congratulate yourself for reaching your goals.
  • Swap excessive exercise with yoga. It has lots of health benefits and will relieve a lot of anxiety.
  • Don’t look at the scales and stop constantly scrutinising your body in front of the mirror. If you have an eating disorder, no matter how low the number is on the scale, it never feels like enough. Your self-worth and your health is not determined by the number you see or the shape of your thighs, or any part of your body for that matter.
  • If you’re following “pro-Ana”, “pro-Mia” or anything on social media that bombards you with body image expectations or promotes an unhealthy lifestyle unfollow them. Replace the negativity with mediums that promote body positivity and recovery. healthyisthenewskinny.com is a good place to start.
  • Ireland’s national eating disorder organization is Bodywhys. They have a hotline, advice and information sections, and respond to emails.
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