If there is one group of creatures on earth who find Christmas dinner more stressful than all the turkeys out there do, it is people with eating disorders. Actually scrap that, when it comes to having an eating disorder it isn't simply Christmas dinner that is stressful, it is the entire build up over the festive season when suddenly it feels as if EVERYTHING is about food.
There are Christmas meals out with friends to attend, boxes of chocolates being thrust under your nose at every turn, Christmas puddings, mince pies, Christmas cake, chocolate log and mile upon mile of buffet tables. You can't even look at a calendar to see what the date is in December without it trying to throw a chocolate at you!
Don't get me wrong, I love all of the Christmas food traditions we celebrate with in order to make the season extra special and I do not want the food aspect of Christmas to be banished forever. Indeed I love the idea of building gingerbread houses, opening the door on your advent calendar to see what shape chocolate you will find that day and the tradition of turning all the lights off, setting fire to the Christmas pudding and sitting for several moments "oohing" and "ahhing" at the blue flames waltzing across their dried fruit dome of a dance floor. Nevertheless, as fun as all the food aspects of Christmas can be, with an eating disorder they can be incredibly stressful and thus make December a particularly difficult time of year, especially if you find yourself unable to join in with the traditions your loved ones are carrying out and thus feeling more isolated than usual.
For this reason then, I thought I would use today's blog post to offer a list of suggestions of ways to celebrate Christmas that aren't food related. Obviously if you find you are able to join in with the usual food activities then by gum join in and have a jolly old time (does anyone say "by gum" anymore...I quite like it...screw it I am bringing it back), but if you can't, allow me to offer up some new potential traditions that will hopefully get you into the festive spirit without all the festive anxiety...
The Official Born Without Marbles List Of Alternative Non-Food Related Ways To Celebrate Christmas
1. Buy a live Christmas turkey and take care of it
2. Go carol singing (if you sing like I do your neighbours may not be thrilled about you knocking on the door whilst belting out "Good King Wenceslas" but if you do it with enough enthusiasm I am sure they will enjoy it in the end. Maybe include hand gestures to go along with the lyrics or a intricately choreographed dance routine.)
3. Make Christmas wreaths
4. Buy an entire supermarket's supply of crackers and have an evening of cracker pulling madness
5. Perform a fashion show wearing all the paper hats you earned in your cracker pulling evening
6. Perform a stand up routine of all the jokes you earned in your cracker pulling evening
7. Stop performing and take a break by watching a Christmas film (I am a sucker for "Love Actually"...until the part where Emma Thompson cries to Joanie Mitchell because Snape bought a necklace for a home wrecker...OH GOD HERE COME THE TEARS)
8. Dry the tears you have cried watching Love Actually and read a Christmas book instead (my personal favourite is the classic Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.)
9. Dress up as an elf and dance around the streets
10. Play Monopoly and get into an argument with a family member about who gets to be the silver dog (nothing says Christmas like a board game argument involving statements like "No, I am the dog. You can be the iron!')
11. Plant a Christmas tree
12. Decorate a Christmas tree (hint, it is has been scientifically proven that the beauty of a Christmas tree increases dramatically when decorations are penguin themed)..
13. Find the machine they used in the film "Honey I shrunk the kids", miniaturise yourself, whack on some wings and a wand and then sit on the top of your Christmas tree to be the family fairy on top (maybe take a cushion to avoid spikes. Fir trees can be prickly)
14. Make a Christmas present filled shoe box and donate it to a charity who send out gifts to those who need a present
15. Grow a beard
16. Dye beard white
17. Stroke beard and shout "Ho Ho Ho" at passers by
18. Hang out with a reindeer
19. Put fairy lights all over the front of your house and enjoy the groups of strangers that gather at your doorstep to appreciate your display
20. Volunteer with a charity to help take care of those who are alone at Christmas
21. If you are a Christian/fancy something a bit traditional, go to church
22. Invite burglars into your household and then take them down with paint cans and tarantulas in a re-enactment of the classic Christmas film Home Alone with Macaulay Culkin
23. Come up with a good explanation as to why the house is a state and why there are two unconscious burglars in the basement for when your parents/house mates return home
24. Find snow
25. Go sledding
26. Go skiing
27. Build a snowman
28. Direct your own one man nativity play (I will leave it up to you to decide how to simultaneously play a sheep, the Virgin Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus...you are the director after all)
29. Tie a carrot to your nose and stand in people's gardens pretending to be a snow man
30. Make Christmas cards
31. Knit your own Christmas stocking
32. Find Santa's workshop and offer to help making all the presents this year
33. Make your own advent calendar and hide treats that are not food related behind all the doors
34. Go and watch a pantomime (if you find it hard to find the theatre on the night of the performance just turn around. Chances are it's behind you)
35. Stand under the mistletoe and wait...
36. Keep waiting...
37. Keep waiting...
38. Just a little longer...
39. Give up standing under the mistletoe and run to a mirror. Stare at your reflection and then compliment yourself out loud with the utmost sincerity because you are beautiful and if people don't kiss you under the mistletoe then it is their loss/a sign of their bad taste/not a reflection on your personal levels of fabulousness.
40. Tinsel. I am not sure what exactly you can do with tinsel but it is christmassy and not food related so do something with it.
41. Find a pregnant lady called Mary and ask if she would mind coming with you to give birth in a barn where the cattle are lowing
42. Lie any babies born in a manger
43. Offer the baby Frankincense
44. When the baby turns its nose up at frankincense (literally...that stuff STINKS), offer it a rattle instead
45. Play pin the tail on the reindeer (WITH A PAPER REINDEER PLEASE)
46. Go ice skating
47. Sit under a fir tree with a bow on your head and pretend to be a present
48. Laugh at all the fools who actually mistake you for a present
49. Jingle some bells (jingle them ALL the way)
50. Find loved ones
51. Hug loved ones
52. Scout the supermarkets from the 22nd of December onwards to see which one starts selling easter eggs first. The first place winner gets nothing at all as a reward and should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating consumerism/the capitalist agenda.
So there you have it! A list of fifty-two alternative ways to celebrate Christmas when you have an eating disorder. Of course part of me hates writing this post and in an ideal world I would simply tell you all to just join in with everyone else and the "normal" food related activities rather than having to follow any of my suggestions (fabulous though they may be).
As any sufferers out there will know, eating disorders are soul destroying, potentially fatal illnesses that should not be allowed to dictate and ruin your Christmas. They shouldn't dictate your behaviours, interfere with your ability to be "Merry and bright" and make social interactions around a crowded dinner table utterly terrifying, but unfortunately, a lot of the time, no matter how hard you try, eating disorders do all of those things without caring as to whether they should or shouldn't.
That is why I have made this list. It is not because I agree with any of your eating disorders telling you that you can't join in or that there is anything wrong with the food celebrations at Christmas time, but because this is not an ideal world (remember, this was the year Mary Berry left The Great British Bake off), and as much as I wish I could wave a magic wand and banish your eating disorders to enable you to have the ED free christmases you deserve, I know that such a dream is vastly overestimating my abilities as a magician.
Hopefully one day there wont be any eating disorders so this post and these alternative Christmas celebration activities won't be necessary anymore, but until then I just want to try and help you come up with ways that you CAN join in at Christmas regardless of your eating disorders so that you don't have to hide all December and become lonelier than the last toffee penny in a tin of quality street.
I have every faith that we will all eventually get to the day where the highlight of Christmas is a roast dinner and flaming pudding with all the family. Until then though, let's just find fun where we can, knit our stockings and look forward to a time when all of this mental pain is a thing of the past.
Take care everyone x
For more, visit Katie's Mental Health Blog at www.bornwithoutmarbles.com