Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mind and body

Holidays are more joyful for woman who overcame an eating disorder

Lavinia Rodriguez

Lavinia Rodriguez

As a psychologist specializing in eating, weight and fitness issues, the holiday season is a particularly busy time. People come to me seeking help with what they perceive as the downside of the holidays. My job is to help them make changes so that they can enjoy the holiday season to the fullest without letting an eating disorder, unhealthy lifestyle or personality issue get in the way.

Every so often, I get to reconnect with former patients who have successfully conquered psychological barriers that had kept them from the happy lives they so desired. I asked Amy, a former bulimic, to recall what it was like for her during the holidays when she struggled with her eating disorder and compare that to her life today. Whether you struggle with bulimia, compulsive overeating or other food-related issues, you may see your own thinking and behavior in Amy's story. Here's what she had to say:

"Today, when the holidays approach, I think, 'I hope I get invited to lots of holiday parties this season! I want to meet new people, try all kinds of tasty delicacies, wear sparkly new outfits, laugh and dance and have a grand old time!'

"Twenty years ago, however, my feelings about the holidays were vastly different. I remember being overwhelmed with anxiety and fear. Back then, if I was invited to a party, I would spend endless time calculating how much food and calories I would allow myself to have at the party. I would plan out the portions, type of foods and the time I could eat in order to avoid losing control.

"Often, I would try to eat a ridiculously low number of calories as my limit for the night. That meant most of what was offered at the party was off-limits to me.

"Deep down I knew I didn't have enough willpower to stick to my plan because my plan always failed. I wanted to deny that another binge loomed ahead, but my mind and body knew better. I was preoccupied with questions about what kind of food would be served at the party, whether I should arrive late to the party and avoid eating, or whether I should just skip the party altogether. Plus, I had to work out like a maniac the day of the party.

"Needless to say, all that resisting and denying myself would backfire and I would find myself mentally and physically exhausted. I would finish the holidays feeling ugly, out of control, guilty and anxious over what had just happened.

"I missed out on a lot of good times. Today I see that an eating disorder has a life of its own while it robs you of your own life.

"Now, my decisions are based on more important criteria — my availability, my kid's schedule and, most importantly, my desire to be happily engaged in the holiday season!

"Now, I eat normally the day of a party. I usually exercise because I enjoy it — not because I have to. I choose holiday foods based on what appeals to me the most. Food is not the focus any more, so I don't keep track of how much I ate or didn't eat — there's no need to, because I don't feel deprived anymore.

"It's the holidays, for crying out loud! I'm going to enjoy myself! Anxiety has been replaced with joyfulness. I'm thankful that I made the decision years ago to let go of my dysfunctional way of life. I can't go back and redo the wasted holidays in the past, but look at how many I've fully enjoyed since getting my priorities straight! And, there are many more happy holidays to come.''

Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send questions to her at

Holidays are more joyful for woman who overcame an eating disorder 11/27/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 6:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. North Korean missile launch may be testing rivals, not technology


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will.

    A woman watches a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday,. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan's maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]
  2. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Samantha Bee on Florida felonies

    State Roundup

    Comedian Samantha Bee traveled to Florida, where she says "retirees and democracy go to die," to shed light on how the state makes it difficult for felons to regain the right to vote.

    Samantha Bee hosts Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS. Bee portrayed some of Florida’s felonies as not so serious on her show.
  3. For some, Memorial Day comes around more than just once a year


    ST. PETERSBURG — It is shortly before nine on a Friday morning, and the heat is already approaching unbearable levels at Bay Pines National Cemetery.

    Iles carefully digs up the St. Augustine grass so that it will continue to grow when it is placed back on the gravesite. He tries not to disturb the root base.
  4. State budget uncertainty has school districts 'very concerned'


    While waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to approve or veto the Legislature's education budget, the people in charge of school district checkbooks are trying hard to find a bottom line.

    It has not been easy.

    The unsettled nature of Florida’s education budget has left school districts with questions about how they will make ends meet next year. []
  5. Ernest Hooper: Removing Confederate symbols doesn't eliminate persistent mindset

    Human Interest

    The debate has begun about removing a Confederate statue from outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse, and its removal is long overdue.

    Robert E. Lee Elementary, 305 E. Columbus Drive in Tampa, originally opened its doors in the early 1910s as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School. [Times file]