10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays With an Eating Disorder

The holidays are a joyful time for many people. They are filled with time spent with family and loved ones, celebrating and enjoying each other’s company. For someone with an eating disorder however, the holidays can be one of the most difficult times of the year. Many celebrations revolve around food, including what many would consider to be fear foods and family members may not always know that what to say to be helpful rather than triggering or harmful.

With all of the stress that comes along with the holidays on top of having an eating disorder, mentally preparing yourself for this time of the year is essential. If you are currently in treatment, talk with your therapist and/or dietitian about strategies for navigating upcoming events or get-togethers. If you don’t have a therapist or dietitian, reach out to someone that you trust and feel comfortable with. You don’t have to suffer in silence or at all with a little help from others.

Here are Evolve’s Top 10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays:

  • Don’t starve yourself in the days leading up to a celebration that will revolve around food in order to “make up” for what you might be eating. Remind yourself that your body needs food in order to function properly, and that any restriction is a win for ED and not for recovery.
  • Do your best to focus your attention on the people that you are spending time with to help take some focus away from the food portion of the celebration. Utilize conversation with people you love to distract you from the thoughts or urges that might be coming up.
  • Think about who your support system is and then most importantly – reach out to them! If you have a family member who understands your struggle, ask them to help you when you are struggling. Set up a game plan in advance and maybe even a ‘signal’ word or gesture so they know when you need them without other’s becoming curious.
  • Self-care, Self-care, self-care! Try your best to reduce your stress levels leading up to the holidays. Engage in self-care activities like a hot bath, a nap, or meditation time. Sometimes this even means saying no to extra commitments so you don’t spread yourself too thin.
  • Prepare yourself for dealing with uncomfortable or triggering questions from family. Aunt Bessie probably means well when she says things like, “you look so much healthier now!” but we understand that can feel like a bit of a jab to someone fresh into recovery. Have a plan for how you will respond or how you will challenge thoughts that these comments may bring up.
  • Remember that it is okay to take care of yourself in the moment. If you need to excuse yourself from dinner or from a conversation, that’s okay. Your mental health is important and is a priority.
  • Remember that counting calories, using a scale, or checking your body for changes are all ED behaviors and you do not need to invite him to your holiday.
  • If you do engage in behaviors, be kind to yourself. You are not a failure. Recovery is about progress, not perfection and picking yourself back up with love will be much more beneficial in the long run than beating yourself up.
  • If you have a meal plan, follow it to the best of your ability during meal times.
  • Follow your meal plan. That’s not a typo – it’s so important we listed it twice. 🙂

Ultimately, you need to do what you need to do to take care of yourself during the holidays. Set realistic expectations for yourself about what you can accomplish, and be kind to yourself if you happen to fall short of your own expectations. Challenging thoughts and urges can be difficult, especially when you are in a stressful situation. You deserve to enjoy yourself on the holidays!


Kaite Olund, Counseling Intern

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