Setting Boundaries During the Holidays

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Eating Disorder Hope

ski-tour-257008_640Healing from an eating disorder involves analyzing all aspects of one’s life under the clear lens of recovery. There may be several parts of your life that you once engaged in can no longer be a part of your future should you choose recovery from an eating disorder.

While it may be difficult to let go of many things in your life that you once objectified or held close, it is important to focus on things that will uplift, support, and sustain your efforts in treatment and recovery. Are there certain individuals, places, or situations that are toxic in your life or dampening to your recovery?

What types of scenarios discourage progress in your recovery or prevent you from moving forward? It is helpful to reflect on these questions and learn how to effectively set boundaries.

The Creation of Limitations for Protection

Setting boundaries involves the creation of limitations for yourself that can help protect you, emotionally, physically, mentally and emotionally. Many people may think of boundaries in a negative sense that somehow hinders or restricts oneself in life, but this could not be farther from the truth.

Boundaries are critical to maintaining healthy relationships with others and yourself. Creating boundaries not only helps protect the efforts you have made in your recovery journey but also to help establish control during situations that may otherwise feel chaotic or estranged.

How to Start Setting Good Boundaries

eye-122707_640What does setting boundaries look like in eating disorder recovery? Begin by understanding what triggers eating disorder thoughts and behaviors.

Starting Out Slow

If you are in the early phases or your recovery journey, this will be more difficult to do. As you progress In your treatment, are medically and nutritionally restored, it will be easier for you to distinguish what are your thoughts and what are the things that are influenced by your eating disorder.

Working with a Counselor

When you reach this point in your journey, work with your counselor or therapist to discover what these triggers are or have been in your life. Are there individuals in your life that have been deterring you from your eating disorder recovery? Setting a boundary might mean distancing yourself from this person or spending time under certain circumstances.

Are there certain activities you do in your life that distract you from recovering? Learning to say no by setting boundaries is effectually saying YES to yourself and to your recovery. This can be a painful process initially but will become easier with time and practice.

Measuring Where to Set Boundaries

When learning how and when to set boundaries, a helpful question to keep in mind is, “Is this ultimately supporting my recovery from an eating disorder?” Use this as a marker to measure all things in your life.

If your answer is ever ‘No’, than it may be an area of your life to consider setting a limitation. These limitations can actually be quite liberating as you grow in your recovery and learn how to stand up for yourself, what you believe in, and what is important to you.

This is dramatically different from the controls of an eating disorder, where you are often confined to distorted beliefs and following the “rules” of these deadly diseases.

Practicing During the Holiday Season

people-352218_640While setting boundaries is an important part of recovery in any season of life, the holidays are a time where you may have many opportunities to practice this. The holiday season is often a time of interacting and mingling with many family members, friends, and acquaintances, many which may not understand your recovery or what your journey has involved.

Saying No

You may receive many unwanted comments about your appearance, be drawn into a conversation that is triggering, or be pushed to eat something you do not want. These are all situations that you can exercise your voice, learn to say ‘No’, and stand up for your own beliefs and values.

Empowering Yourself

By establishing healthy boundaries for yourself and with others, you are empowering yourself in your recovery and securing the foundation that you stand on.

Growing in your recovery journey is a process that happens gradually. As with any new practice, look for progression and not perfectionism!

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are situations in which you may need to set appropriate boundaries? How is this process helpful for eating disorder recovery?