Food and family and festivities, oh my! Christmas, a time of excess, catching up with friends, festive frolicking and for some, a hell of a lot of stress. For me, Christmas brings mixed emotions. On one hand, it’s one of my favourite times of the year, I love the lights, getting everyone’s presents and the general festive fun, but the idea of the change in routines, familial expectations and excessive amounts of food bring with them a whole new ball of anxiety. The good news…this year that anxiety has been markedly LESS overwhelming than in previous years. It’s funny, because in terms of family and personal stress, things are probably more tense than ever, but in terms of my general coping, I feel far more able to manage these worries. In fact, thus far, I’ve really been enjoying the festivities. From a lot of festive pre-christmas g&t’s and prosecco with my girl Hollie, to a gathering of all the OAPs at uni for a Christmas dinner, it’s been pretty great. I’ve not been sitting counting calories obsessively or panicking over food that (God forbid) wasn’t carefully planned and agonised over by yours truly. Yes, I helped with Christmas dinner by providing a few festive pieces, but it wasn’t all vegan squash stuffed with quinoa and veggies (although that was on the menu), I was also able to indulge in a bit of my very own peanut butter cheesecake (which was 100% not ‘lean’ or ‘clean’) alongside some of my ‘healthy makeover’ chocolate molten cakes. Guess what, I didn’t wake up the next day feeling like the Michelin man, in fact, I woke up happy and full of festive spirit after an alcohol fuelled evening of food and articulate with good friends (if not a little hungover). Last Sunday Phebe and I had a festive night in with mae deli takeaway (amazing), chalet girl and fluffy blankets. I have my own advent calendar and have hot chocolates most evenings. Yes, they may be my own version and a little more healthy, but my lifestyle is one I choose to lead, rather than being dominated by anorexia. There is flexibility to my routines (to an extent) and Christmas activities are actually enjoyable! The moral of the story…eating is a lot more fun than not eating. This time 3 years ago I was on a hospital unit, waiting to find out whether I’d be allowed home for Christmas. Yep, I was super skinny, but was I happy? Absolutely not. Even going home and doing meals on wheels on the big day itself (my favourite festive tradition with 2 great friends) was not fun really because it was a constant struggle between myself and anorexia. For everyone else, I was not great to be around. I was exhausted and in a swirl of calorie counting, overlooking the food prep and working out how I could eat less than I would have to in hospital. That’s not living. That’s surviving daily controlled by a daemon with only your demise as its end goal. So, with 2016 coming to an end, whether it has been a good one or a bad one for you, take a step back and if you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, try and remember how much more glorious life can be if you take back control, because however strong you feel for being the one around the table who barley eats, the waif by the fire who everyone thinks may disappear, holding on to your disorder is not strength and your ability to shrink is not a sign of resilience, quite the opposite. I plan to do a post in a few days about making new year resolutions and things I learned in 2016 (look at me, actually updating my blog more than once in a blue moon), but in the mean time, try to enjoy the festivities and strive for health and happiness this festive season!