It’s that time of year when sweets like candy and desserts come out in full force at holiday parties and family gatherings. When you’re struggling with an eating disorder or stuck in the diet cycle, this can be an extra stressful time. Whether you fear eating too much, or fear eating sweets at all – the struggle is real. It can make you dread the holiday season, and miss out on important moments with friends and family.
If you feel guilty after eating sweets, get stressed being around them, or feel like you have to “burn off” what you ate the day before to get “back on track”, keep reading to learn 5 different ways members of Recovery Warriors’ team went from feeling powerless to empowered around candy and desserts. This community wouldn’t be here without our talented team members who all have lived experience of battling an eating disorder, and a passion for helping others find recovery.
Let’s explore 5 ways you can take back the power from candy and desserts, this holiday season and beyond.
1. Ditch the “good” vs. “bad” food mindset
Putting a moral value on food is putting fuel on the eating disorder fire. The more you tell you yourself that sweets are “bad”, the more you want them, and the more you fear them too. Whether you restrict yourself from sweets or consume them, remember that sugar, candy, and desserts are neutral.
Madeleine is in charge of brand design here at Recovery Warriors. She shared how ditching the “good” vs. “bad” mindset helped her find peace and power around candy and desserts: “I truly can’t believe the extent to which I feel recovered. I really feel so free around food and it just doesn’t have a hold over me anymore. I don’t attach the same moral meaning to it anymore. Ice cream is just ice cream. Cake is just cake.”
2. Fuel your body regularly
Staying fed and nourished is an important part of taking your power back from candy and desserts. If you’re restricting and not eating enough, this causes distressing and obsessive thoughts around sweets. It could lead to a binge, because your body is looking for a source of quick energy in the form of glucose. Consistently eating nutrient-dense foods can help you think more clearly when you feel overwhelmed with cravings. If you’re hungry, eat! Honor your hunger and fullness cues.
Minaya handles Recovery Warrior’s online marketing and web design, and she has this brilliant piece of advice: “the more you control your food, the more it’s going to control you. If you really want to have some power over your eating habits, then you have to allow freedom. Let your body tell you what it wants and what it needs. Listen to it.”
3. Let go of guilt
When you’re struggling with an eating disorder, situations that involve candy and dessert can create a huge internal conflict in your mind. When you do consume sweets, it causes guilt. This leads to a destructive cycle of negative self-talk and compensatory behaviors like purging, more restriction, and over-exercising. This takes the joy out of the holidays, instead of making memories with your loved ones.
Recovery Warriors’ Chief Editor Mirjam has struggled with this cycle around the holidays, but through recovery, she learned how to take her power back around candy and dessert: “I learned so much about what was underneath my eating disorder and why I used food as a way of coping and dealing with insecurities and a lack of self-worth. Working through those things took away all that power that food once had over me. Over time, things shifted. Holidays became fun and enjoyable again.“
4. Embrace intuitive eating and diabetes
Sweets and candy are especially demonized when living with diabetes. If you’re trying to recover from an eating disorder while also living with diabetes, these two things can feel at odds with one another. Most doctors will prescribe low-sugar diets, which can make sweets and candy feel like a “forbidden fruit.” But there is hope if you’re trying to recover from an eating disorder while also dealing with diabetes, or living with any medical condition that calls for greater attention to what you eat.
Andrea is Recovery Warriors Podcast Producer. She told us how she took her power back with candy and desserts while reconciling a type 2 diabetes diagnosis in eating disorder recovery: “I realized that I still have unconditional permission to eat. I can eat all the carbs and sugar I want. Yes, it will raise my blood sugar, and that can impact my physical health. But ultimately, there’s no law saying I can’t go ahead and do all of that. Though I do value my physical health, and because diabetes is one of those exceptions to the notion that food will not harm your health, I practice gentle nutrition instead. Having diabetes doesn’t mean that I have to live by eating disorder rules.”
5. Come out of hiding
When you’re living with an eating disorder, it’s common to consume candy and desserts in secret due to shame and guilt when it comes to sweets. Maybe you’ve found yourself eating pastries in your room in the middle of the night, or sneaking bites of candy in the pantry while no one is around. Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat, and doing so out in the open can give you back your power with candy and desserts.
Jessica is the Founder and CEO of Recovery Warriors, and she used to eat sweets in secret. Here’s what she had to say about coming out of hiding: “Because I always ate my sweets in secret, coming out of hiding meant eating them with other people. I would make it a point to have dessert with my friends. This actually helped me in processing the meal and keeping it down.”
Ultimately, when you give yourself permission to eat, including candy and desserts and all those things that you convinced yourself are off-limits – they suddenly lose their power over you.
This holiday season and beyond, enjoy the treats. Allow yourself to eat Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies, or Christmas cookies. Take back that power that all the eating disorder rules and beliefs and chronic dieting took away from you all these years.
Make a commitment to start walking on a new path, one that doesn’t end in guilt and beating yourself up.
A path of full permission.