Eating Disorders

8 Tips for Managing an Eating Disorder During the Holidays

Eileen Bailey Nov 16th, 2012 (updated Apr 22nd, 2016)
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Many of our holiday traditions center around food. We begin the season with a Thanksgiving feast and continue throughout the holidays; parties often have elaborate food tables with more food than the guests could possibly consume. And while our focus this time of year is on family and connecting with those we love, we often do it surrounded by food. Many people worry about overeating during this time of year, but for those with eating disorders, the holidays can be difficult. While most with eating disorders want to socialize with friends and family during the holidays, their anxieties about food can prevent them from doing so. 

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Talk with your therapist
Talk with your therapist

Talk with your therapist about your concerns about the upcoming holidays early. Preparing for stressful situations and working on coping strategies beforehand can help you not fall into self-destructive patterns.

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Eat healthy meals on a regular basis
Eat healthy meals on a regular basis

During the holidays it is tempting to skip meals to make room for eating later or to make up for what you already ate but this can cause overeating. Instead, stick to moderate eating at regular intervals and remember that most of the foods you eat during the holidays are still around throughout the year, so you don’t have to overindulge.

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Keep in mind those people who are supportive
Keep in mind those people who are supportive

Be sure to know where they are to help you cope with the holidays. Talk to a few supportive friends and relatives before and ask if you can lean on them when struggling with addictive behaviors.

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Ask a family member to be your food buddy
Ask a family member to be your food buddy

They could make up a plate for you or help you in creating a plate with appropriate and healthy portions.

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Keep in mind the "reason for the season"
Keep in mind the "reason for the season"

Focus on friends and family rather than on food. Share your goals and dreams and ask about theirs. Let others know about your concerns and fears. Share thoughts on what each person means to you. Find ways to connect with family on an emotional level.

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If you are in a support group, continue to attend meetings and participate
If you are in a support group, continue to attend meetings and participate

Support groups can help you find ways of managing and coping during the extra stress of the holidays and help you feel less alone.

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Minimize stress levels
Minimize stress levels

Schedule in time for relaxation as well as holiday events. Leave time each day for stress reducing strategies such as meditation, yoga or taking a walk outdoors. Make sure not to overbook holiday parties and events and give yourself plenty of down time. If you think you will feel stressed or overwhelmed attending a specific event, politely decline–you don’t have to attend every party.

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Plan ahead
Plan ahead

When visiting friends or family or attending a holiday event, plan out the situation before going to help reduce stress. Think about how you will handle the situation if someone makes a remark about your weight, your body or your eating disorder. Thinking about what to say beforehand can help you feel more in control should the situation arise.