The holidays are a vibrant time full of decadent meals, treats, and an abundance of sweets. It can be a time of celebratory feasting or unhealthy gluttony; some integrate nutritious meals into their holiday meals, and others decide to start eating healthier once the New Year starts.
Those in recovery from an eating disorder sometimes find themselves overwhelmed, anxious or struggling to navigate eating during the holidays, let alone focusing on getting plenty of nutrition.
In this article, we’re going to provide the best ways to make it through this holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Year, and maintain a nutritious diet during your recovery.
Importance of nutrition
Nutrition plays an integral role in the overall state of our being, though, and its importance is not limited to those struggling with eating disorders.
One of the biggest impacts is how nutrition affects mental health. Unhealthy diets (those high in sugar, artificial ingredients and processed oils) are known to cause inflammation in the body and brain, which is the root cause of countless illnesses, diseases, and disorders.
Depression and anxiety notably, are frequently connected to diets that are high in sugar and processed foods, such as fast food and prepackaged or frozen meals.
Studies show that a dietary change to one that is rich in antioxidants, probiotics, whole grains and “the rainbow” (a wide variety of fruits and vegetables) can significantly ease these symptoms of mental illness. When paired with other lifestyle changes, such as increased time spent outdoors and regular exercise, these illnesses have been known to heal entirely.
Key nutrients for those in ED recovery
An eating disorder drains your body of important resources. As you go through recovery, there will be specific nutrients that are harder for your body to replenish than others (depending on the severity of malnutrition). These key nutrients will be up to you to restore.
Some of these nutrients include:
Zinc and potassium
Probiotics and magnesium
Vitamins A, B (B12 or a B-complex), C and D
Healthy fats (such as olive oil, coconut oil and animal fats)
Folic acid and calcium
While you can absolutely buy supplements of each of these (be sure they’re predominantly the vitamin and not full of “fillers”), receiving these nutrients through natural food sources is the purest way.
Consider the below meal plan example of delicious, nutritious meals.
Breakfast: A Greek yogurt (zinc and probiotics) bowl topped with berries (antioxidants) and raw honey (magnesium).
Snack: A ripe orange (Vitamin C), deviled eggs (Vitamins A and D), carrots and hummus (Vitamin C and B, and calcium).
Lunch: Fresh romaine lettuce wraps (magnesium and potassium) with chicken salad (Vitamin B and potassium) and cheddar cheese slices (zinc and healthy fat).
Dinner: Steak and herb butter (zinc, magnesium, Vitamin B and healthy fats) with mashed potatoes (potassium and Vitamins C and B).
Dessert: Enjoy a sweet treat in moderation.
Nutrition during the holidays
Eating healthy during the holidays doesn’t mean severely restricting your enjoyment of your favorite sweets, snacks and foods — nutrition is about balance and moderation in all things.
Too many cookies aren’t good for your health, but then again, neither is too much kale.
The holidays can make it difficult to maintain the balance between fuel foods and fun foods, so we composed the tips below to help you navigate nutrition during the holidays.
1. Bring food you’re comfortable with
Many holiday gatherings are potluck-style (even those that aren’t, many hosts are open to additional dishes), which is an easy way to bring food you’re comfortable with. This can help redirect your focus from worrying about what there is to eat to enjoying what you brought and being able to have a good time with the company.
2. Have a “buddy”
Having one or several people who know what you’re going through and are there for you can make a big difference in how you handle moments when your disorder is triggered. If you don’t feel safe turning to someone you know personally, you can always send us a message.
3. Take care of yourself
The holidays can be a great time to connect with family and friends, but if you don’t give yourself enough time to rest and recover, it can be more draining than uplifting. Be protective of your sleep schedule, know that it’s okay to leave a function early (or not go at all) and do a little something for yourself every day, like going on a walk, journaling or meditating.
4. Reach out for professional support
If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder and you’re unsure of what to do next, send us a message here at Tapestry.
Tapestry is a premier behavioral health treatment center in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. We offer a comprehensive eating disorder treatment program that is suitable for both adolescents and adults. Through our continuum of care, you will be able to heal your relationship with food and restore healthy, sustainable eating patterns in your life.