Why The Holiday Season Is Especially Hard For People With Eating Disorders

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For many, the holiday season is a veritable onslaught of overeating. It’s not just the big Thanksgiving dinner, either. There are the Christmas sweets, family get-togethers, and the office holiday parties with snacks. Food is glorified from November until the new year when everyone makes resolutions to eat healthier.

But, for the approximately 30 million Americans living with an eating disorder, the heightened holiday focus on eating comes with intense anxiety, stress, and a load of triggers for their disorder.

Eating is almost always fraught with negative feelings and stress for people with eating disorders, but the season turns this up to 11 – and it affects people with eating disorders on both ends of the spectrum.

People with anorexia can feel pressured to eat, which can lead to negative feelings about their body or excessive fasting or exercise to make up for the increased calorie intake. On the other hand, those with bulimia or binge eating disorder may face intense shame or embarrassment, along with feeling the need to purge.

Andrea Gulner has personal experience with this. As she recently explained to SheKnows, the actress and creator of the online comedy series Binge – inspired by her experiences with bulimia – “my eating disorder ruined Christmas for 10 years.”

“For me, the days leading up to the holiday season were filled with crippling anxiety, constant dread and obsessive planning,” she writes. “Weeks in advance, I’d start by mapping Thanksgiving and Christmas out for myself: what I’d eat, and when, and how slowly.”

While family can be a helpful source of support for those with eating disorder, they can also be a source of pain or embarrassment for many.

Leora Fulvio, a licensed psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders, tells Munchies that stressful family dynamics “create a perfect storm for people dealing with bulimia and binge eating disorder.”

“The dynamics are different with every family, but it’s difficult for many people,” Fulvio says. “There’s the stress of family, and with that comes sneak-eating for people with eating disorders, like grabbing food quickly while no one is looking. Also, not being able to concentrate or focus is a big thing, because they’re obsessed with the food or obsessed with not eating it.”

While this time of year is particularly difficult for those living with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, you don’t have to let an eating disorder ruin your holidays. Fulvio and Gulner both have advice for making it through the season as easily as possible.

“The dynamics are different with every family, but it’s difficult for many people,” Fulvio says. “There’s the stress of family, and with that comes sneak-eating for people with eating disorders, like grabbing food quickly while no one is looking. Also, not being able to concentrate or focus is a big thing, because they’re obsessed with the food or obsessed with not eating it.”

“I recovered. And you can, too,” writes Gulner. “If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, get this: I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast today! And I couldn’t care less! It’s true! It’s a miracle. You can have that miracle, too. I promise.”

If you think you or someone you know may be living with an eating disorder, call us at (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and see if treatment is right for you.

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