This is What It's Like to Have an Eating Disorder During a Latino Holiday Dinner

Surviving Latino Holiday Dinners During Eating Disorder Recovery

The holidays are officially upon us, and while some look forward to days off, home-cooked meals and good ol' family bochinche, those very attributes that make for memorable fiestas are also what make these celebrations so difficult for Latinos in eating disorder recovery or battling body image issues, people like me.

MORE: 10 Things Latinas Should Know About Eating Disorders

While my primas are anticipating their vacaciones, I’m getting anxious, wondering how I’m going to continue the eating schedule and rituals I’ve developed for myself. 

Heart pounding and hands clammy, I’m envisioning the mountain of arroz con gandules my abuela will put on my plate, the ensalada de papa my mami will cook just for me and the pernil that’ll be set right in the center of the dining table. I’m scared because I don’t know how to eat in front of them; I’m still learning how to eat “normal” again. “Should I finish the plate?” “What if I leave too many grains of rice?” If my family is unaware of my disordered eating, I fear they’ll figure me out. If they know the ins and outs of my recovery, I know they’ll be hawking my every move.

These thoughts scare me, and I don’t want to do the holidays this year. I love my family, enjoy being surrounded by people who love me unconditionally, but I fear I’ll be risking my progress, my health. After all, Latino holiday triggers don’t stop at food or uneasy schedule changes. There’s body talk, too.

Why is it again that the first comment my tía makes every time someone walks in the door is about their figure? Whether she gives me the negative “mira que flaca!” or “estás engordando” or the so-called positive “nunca se veía mejo,” remarks about my size, my weight or my shape can encourage disordered eating. But she continues.

Tía’s not alone. “Te quiero, pero eres demasiado gorda,” my abuelita told me the last time we saw each other, as if she measured her love for me by my pants size. These comments rip through me, chipping away at the weeks, months, years of progress I’ve made in an instant. They can’t tell, but I know that the next “ya deja de comer,”por qué no comes” or stare that says so much more will leave me in a familiar position: kneeling down with my head hovering over a toilet bowl.

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