Surviving the holidays with an eating disorder is difficult. The holiday season is a time for friends, family, and celebration. But the holidays can also be a time of great stress. This is especially true for those struggling with an eating disorder or those recovering from an eating disorder. Holiday festivities often surround food, and this focus on food can bring about immense anxiety and fear for a person with an eating disorder. Yet, for those who have never experienced an eating disorder, it can be hard to understand this level of stress.

Why the Holidays are Difficult for Those with Eating Disorders

For many people, food is front and center in any holiday party or gathering. And while the emphasis on food is sure to add stress to those with an eating disorder, there are other factors that contribute to the anxieties around the holiday season.

Holidays put pressure on most people in one way or another, and this pressure can be exacerbated for families who have a member with an eating disorder.  Those with eating disorders frequently feel misunderstood around food-related issues. Additionally, holidays often mean families spending extended periods of time together, which inevitably increases the likelihood of frayed tempers and arguments. The holidays also mean more social commitments, which can leave those with eating disorders more vulnerable to being questioned (or having people make comments) about weight and/or appearance.

Helpful Tips for Surviving the Holidays with an Eating Disorder

While there is no one definite way to survive the holidays with an eating disorder, there are things you can do to help you experience the holidays without reverting to (or engaging in) unhealthy behaviors.

  • Plan ahead – when it comes to managing bulimia or anorexia and the holidays, planning ahead wherever possible (especially around food) can be a huge help. If you have a meal plan, do your best to follow it. If you will be traveling, be sure to pack snacks.
  • Know your coping skills – make a list of things that help you relax, self-soothe, or manage overwhelming emotions, and review the list frequently throughout the holidays.
  • Reach out – have the contact information of your treatment team and/or trusted supports handy and reach out to them often. Having a strong support system is essential to surviving the holidays with an eating disorder.
  • Communicate your boundaries – if it could be helpful, let your friends and family know what could be helpful to you (i.e. – requesting no one comment on your appearance or eating habits or that you need some time alone each day).

Holidays can be very stressful if you have an eating disorder. Thus, it is so important to learn what is helpful in you maintaining your progress in recovery or what helps things not get worse.

For more information on surviving the holidays with an eating disorder, or to learn about HPA/LiveWell eating disorder treatment services, contact us at 518-218-1188 in Albany, New York or at 845-372-4367 in Poughkeepsie, New York.

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