Coping in January with an eating disorder
December is pretty bad but January is definitely the worst month when you have an eating disorder. Whatever stages you’re at in your recovery, January has the potential to break you i.e., reinforce negative behaviours but also undo all the hard work you had previously done.
You thought you were safe, that you could draw a line under the mince pies and cheese straws. You felt you were safe because, despite the eating disorder voice in your head trying to get you to restrict, you still ploughed on, diligently kept to your eating plan and ate as you were required to get better. It was all fine up until the end of December when everyone was guzzling champagne and still feasting on party food, it was still fine because they were doing it so you didn’t look like you were eating too much in comparison, your eating may even have looked, dare I say, “normal”.
All is well until January the 1st because something happens the moment the clock swings into the new year. Overnight a massive cosmic shift seems to occur. The food and behaviours that were totally acceptable even 12h previously are now frowned upon and touted at.
Having a croissant for breakfast?! Gosh, no! I don’t touch gluten anymore, or fat, or breakfast for that matter. Quality Streets are binned (thank goodness only the orange and strawberry creams were left), booze is locked up and everyone pleas to not touch animal produce, at least for 31 days…
That’s because January is a month when we have to be healthier than thou, when we are urged to detox, to trim down and step up.
When you have an eating disorder January is a horrific month because 80% of the population starts depicting signs of disordered eating. Before it was just you and a few others but at least there was a “normal” benchmark to aim for: “eating bread is ok, other people are doing it; eating butter is ok, other people are doing it; not going to the gym is ok, the others aren’t and they’re fine” was your mantra. In January the benchmark changes, even your granny’s got a Fitbit now and she’s drinking almond milk with her pals!
In order to make progress in your eating disorder recovery in January, you’re going to have to go against the tide and that’s precisely something people with eating disorders struggle with, especially if the tide is going in the same way as The Voice (not the one on ITV, right?).
In January the world and his wife are on a diet, even if they don’t need to. At the start of the year losing weight has become not just acceptable but necessary. And if you’re not losing weight, you’re at the very least trying to eat better, you’re doing Veganuary because it’s healthier. Says who? Gwyneth? Your neighbour? A journalist who got its source from Grazia? The PT at the gym who is also trying to sell you protein shakes? I’ve got nothing against veganism, I was actually a staunch vegetarian for 15 years and even dabbled in veganism for a short while (until the hypocrisy of buying over-the-knees leather boots slapped me in the face with a wet block of tofu), but it drives me potty that everyone assumes it’s better for us without looking at the facts.
Does veganism automatically procures health to everyone? No. Is it better for the environment? I’m not convinced. If we were supposed to be vegan why do we have canines and insicives? Why are the essential amino acids human desperately need for their health not available in plants? There is no denying that the general population could do with eating more plants but that doesn’t mean eating only plants is the answer. There’s a middle ground, which is simply more plants, fewer animal produce. That’s called moderation but no one is interested in that because it’s boring and it doesn’t sell well.
I hate Veganuary because I think for most it’s done out of guilt and redemption: after having eaten my body weight in pigs in blankets I’ll cancel it all out for the pigs’ and my digestive system’s sakes, by going cold turkey (pun intended). Doing something out of guilt unfortunately doesn’t work really well and so soon enough, life will go back to normal and before you know it you’ll be grilling lamb chops on the BBQ. Veganuary might benefit a few but also has the potential to hurt many. It’s not the vegans’ fault but it’s a fact that eating disorders love veganism because it’s a simple and acceptable way to restrict one’s diet. Vegan food also tend to conveniently be lower in calories.
January is the worst month when you have an eating disorder or even if you simply have an inclination towards disordered eating because you, too, are going to want to jump on the band waggon and partake in all the nutrition craziness that January brings. You want to and almost have to because what does that mean about you if you’re still eating Quality Streets (you don’t mind the orange ones after all) but that your friend is doing Dry January, Veganuary, a detox and that she has lost tons of weight? Well, I’ll tell you what it means. In the heads of most people with an eating disorder it means they are fat. She’s dieting and losing weight, I haven’t lost weight it means I’m fat, therefore it means I need to do the same as her.
In January you can undo all your hard work in a very short time and because the diet culture can plant the seeds that in order to be healthy you need to follow a restricted diet.
This January, like every January I will be observing what’s I’ve coined #normaljanuary, I shall do nothing at all that is different to what I was doing before. I will eat meat, fish and sometimes I won’t; sometimes I’ll also have vegan meals. I’ll be eating carbs, sugar and fat and no I won’t stopped drinking because a) I don’t drink that much and b) I might need a drink or two to get me through this horrid month.
I don’t know about you but I just can’t wait for February!