Making It Through The Holidays Safely With An Eating Disorder

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The holidays can be a hard time of year for many people, but they can be especially treacherous for people with eating disorders and their loved ones. The winter holidays are largely centered on food, and the additional stress from friends and family can make the season a mine field.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to make the holidays as painless as possible for those with eating disorders and their friends and family. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa created a list of things you can do to prepare yourself for the upcoming Thanksgiving dinners and family get-togethers.

  • Plan ahead with your therapist or treatment team. Having a plan to deal with the stress and difficult situations can help reduce anxiety and make the holidays go much smoother.
  • Focus on the real reason for the holidays. While it may seem like the purpose of holidays is to make and eat food, the true spirit of the season is being thankful for the loved ones in your life. Find a quiet place to catch up with friends and family you haven’t spent time with recently and let them know how much they mean to you.
  • Know your boundaries and make them clear. Make it clear ahead of time that comments about your appearance or eating disorder are not helpful.
  • Avoid comparing yourself with others. Whether it’s about appearance or a life milestone, it’s not productive to measure yourself against someone else.
  • When it is time to eat, try to let yourself enjoy the food. Remember it is okay to let yourself eat your favorite dish of the season. It is always okay to enjoy food in moderation, and if you do overeat, it is okay.
  • Be mindful when you eat. Take the time to savor each bite and think about the texture, taste, and smell. Consider the love and effort that went into each dish.
  • Have a set of coping skills ready. Everyone has the relative who says inappropriate things at the wrong time or just generally rubs people the wrong way. Remember, you can always excuse yourself if their comments get to be too much. Take a walk, call a friend, or just take a moment to yourself.
  • Set a goal that has nothing to do with food. You could collect winter apparel for a local homeless shelter or toys for needy children. This can bolster your self-esteem, involve the whole family, and help others all at once.
  • Don’t overbook. It can be tempting to say yes to every event you are invited to during the holidays, but don’t overdo it. Go only to the events you really care about. Keeping a lighter calendar with more time for yourself can help reduce the anxiety and allow yourself to enjoy the holidays more.
  • Put yourself first. If you think attending a family gathering will be counterproductive to your recovery, don’t go. It’s OK to practice self-care.
  • Reward yourself. At the end of the holiday, find a way to reward yourself for surviving, whether it’s by taking a hot bath, buying a new book, or seeing the latest movie.

If you think you or someone you know is living with an eating disorder, please call (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and see if treatment is the right path for you or your loved one.

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