Tips for Easter while living with an eating disorder
Navigating holidays or celebrations that revolve around food and indulgence may be tricky for people living with eating disorders, body image concerns or those who are in their recovery journey.
Christmas isn’t the only time that people may struggle – Easter is another holiday where food, feasting, celebrating and socialising over the dinner table may be a common occurrence. Additionally, regular support services may not be available and as such, routines may change. All of this can combine to create a stressful and anxious time for those living with or recovering from an eating disorder.
Our Butterfly team have put together a range of tips, resources and supports, with an aim to make this time a little easier for yourself or a loved one. Our lived experience speakers, the Butterfly Pathfinders, have also provided their lived experience insights as to how they cope with stressful times.
While it’s important to keep on track with your recovery, don’t forget to be kind to yourself during moments of dissatisfaction and unease.
Any time you step out of your comfort zone is a victory against the eating disorder, but even just showing up, turning up and being a part of celebrations is something you should be proud of. You are stronger than you think!
Have a plan
- Make a plan ahead of time with your support networks, carers or treatment team as to how you will handle any challenging situations, or unhelpful eating disorder thoughts and behaviours. Consider a few positive strategies that you can add to your toolkit to help you navigate the day.
- Talk ahead with your family/friends and let them know this may be a stressful time for you, and offer some tips of things they can do that may help you. If your family is having a large gathering, you might like to develop a hand signal or let them know what strategies you are planning on using, so those closest to you know if or when you need to step away from the moment.
- Do your best to stick to your usual meal routines/plans as this can help to create a consistent structure, which may help to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
“My advice during holiday seasons – and all year round, to be honest – is… try to not let the thoughts in your head stop you from having fun and sharing experiences with the people around you. If you can, talk to them about what you’re going through and share your story – particularly if you’re struggling. It may inspire a whole conversation and create a safe space for both you and them.” – Nik Mitchell, Butterfly Pathfinder
- It can also be helpful to establish boundaries prior to any event. Let people know that there is a blanket rule on not commenting on someone’s appearance, weight or food choices. Don’t be afraid to kindly but assertively let them know they’ve stepped out of line if they mention these topics – these discussions can be incredibly triggering during what is already a stressful time with the focus on food.
- You might also like to share information about eating disorders and use this as an opportunity to educate people on the realities of living with these severe psychological illnesses. Talking helps and can contribute to raising awareness, while reducing unhelpful misconceptions, stereotypes and stigma around eating disorders.
“If interaction is inevitable with certain people, and you’re worried this will enable your eating disorder, you can take steps to set boundaries to protect your interactions with them and keep you free of unnecessary exposure to triggers. This could look like voicing conversation topics that leave you vulnerable to mental harm. It could mean offering different points of discussion that aren’t triggering, like the weather, how you intend on spending the new year, etc.” – Imogen Barnes, Butterfly Pathfinder
Don’t focus solely on the food
- For carers and other family members, calling foods their actual name is one positive thing you can do. For example, rather than labelling it as sugar, junk food or a ‘naughty treat’, label it as simply an Easter egg or chocolate. This is helpful for everyone!
- Following on from this, remember food is morally neutral! It is neither ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it is simply food. Those unhelpful labels have been socially constructed by diet culture to make us feel guilt or shame when eating certain foods.
“My biggest piece of advice for people in recovery would be to focus on everything other than food that makes a holiday special. Things like spending time with family, the meaning of that holiday or traditions that don’t involve food” – Sophie Smith, Butterfly Pathfinder
Be kind to yourself
- Dress in the clothes, colours, styles and fabrics that make you and your body feel most comfortable.
- What can you do around the day to extend kindness and care to yourself? Plan self-care activities that help you feel good and spark joy. These might include relaxation or mindfulness activities, listening to music that lifts your mood, drawing or writing, wandering outdoors taking in the surrounds, or gently stretching your muscles.
“Whilst recovering, it’s really important you focus on you – find and do the things that provide you with confidence and reward. Be around those people that instill this in you. Remembering that recovery is a journey – it’s not linear – but it’s so valuable … and you are worth every single second” – Kelly Griffin, Butterfly Pathfinder
- Although easier said than done, try to push aside any guilt or shame you might have about participating in Easter celebrations. It’s okay to enjoy and take part in the festivities and there’s no need to compensate either; that will only serve to strengthen your ED.
- Remind yourself this just one day out of many. There’s also no such thing as perfection, and recovery is not a linear journey; it will be full of many ups and downs. The place you were in last year could be completely different to now, and that’s ok! Take things one day at a time. You’ve got this
“I think there needs to be more empathy and understanding that this Easter may be a time of joy for some, but a challenge for others. I hope that we can learn to celebrate our holidays in a way that is accessible and empathetic towards all of our experiences and values.” – Emily Unity, Butterfly Pathfinder
Accessing support during this period
Butterfly National Helpline
Butterfly’s Helpline ED HOPE is closed on National Public Holidays, meaning we will be closed on Friday 15th April (Good Friday) and Monday 18th April (Easter Monday). Outside of these dates, our Helpline counsellors are available to discuss eating disorders and body image concerns.
In a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or in an emergency, call 000.