Simple Suggestions for Surviving the Holidays

3 min read

Eating Disorders and the Holidays

Ah, for some, the excitement of the holiday season is here! However, several others might be
dreading the season. Typically, when the holidays arrive people might be thinking of gifts, love,
some exhaustion from having to be dragged to multiple events, and laughter. But individuals
who struggle with an eating disorder can experience panic, fear, and feeling generally
overwhelmed. Anyone who has not experienced an eating disorder might be wondering why food
can bring someone such anxiety when “you can just eat.” That lack of understanding can make
things even more insufferable for someone who is experiencing an eating disorder. Let’s be
honest, getting through the holidays can be tough for everyone for multiple reasons – getting
through the holidays with an eating disorder can be even more challenging. However, having or
recovering from an eating disorder during the holidays does not have to be painful if you
prepare accordingly. Here are a few suggestions that I’d recommend.

1. Respect Your Normal

It is important to remember if you are travelling anywhere during the holidays that you
can still have a routine in other places. If you have a process and a system that works for
you, do not forego it just to please others. Consistency is key in recovery and keeping it
can help your mind feel at ease. For instance, if you are currently taking a morning walk
to start your day, continue to do that or if you have a classic afternoon snack that brings
you joy, make sure to take it with you.

2. Plan Ahead & Be Flexible

In times when keeping your schedule is not possible, try to plan what you can do to
keep your worries at bay. I’m talking about positive affirmations, calming strategies,
breathing techniques, and snacks – these are the things that can keep you calm in any
instance where it can seem like you are not in control of your situation. Plan what you
can, and then accept that some things are out of your control. Recenter your focus to
what you CAN do.

3. Remember Where You Are in Your Recovery

Whether you are just now getting help for your eating disorder or are years into
recovery, you can still honor where you are to help push you toward your goals. If you
have a dietician, ask them to help you stay nourished according to your personal dietary
needs and what to do when you encounter any feared foods. Don’t expect or push
yourself to be further along in the process than you truly are. Again, the holidays are
stressful enough that you do not have to put any unnecessary pressure on yourself to
“be better,” recovery is a process.

4. Boundaries, and the Power of “No”

Yes, the classic therapist answer. You are allowed to say no if it is the best option for
you. No can be extremely empowering if you use it. I understand that it can seem
challenging or ever frowned upon in some cases to say no to your family, however you
know what is best for your life and respectfully saying no can make a difference since
you’re looking out for you.

5. Saying Yes

This is not necessarily the opposite of saying no. There is also power in choosing to say
yes in many ways when it comes to celebrating the holidays. Whether you say yes to
seconds, extra desserts, or to your aunt who asks if you’re still in recovery, there is
power when you decide to say yes. Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat
what you want, when you want can decrease the obsessive thoughts surrounding food.
I’d challenge you to find different opportunities to say yes over the holidays.

6. Power in a conversation

There is often someone who will engage in unhelpful conversations like “x knows best
because of an article they read” or diet talk, it is important to recall that you do not owe
anyone an explanation and you are allowed to honor your experience or change the
subject as often as you’d like. This could also be your opportunity to educate others on
truths versus myths surrounding food, body, and self-talk. You do not have to be the
person who corrects others, yet you can be the expert in challenging other’s ways of
thinking or talking about these topics if you feel comfortable doing so and don’t think it
would upset you.

7. Seek Support

If all else fails, create a list of trusted people you can reach out to if you are finding it
difficult to survive the holidays. Ask them ahead of time if you can reach out when you
need a pep talk or to vent.

Remember, you get to choose how you’d like your life to look. It is important to give yourself
compassion and leeway when it comes to the holidays because you deserve it. The people
surrounding you can be challenging but no matter how difficult it may be, you are capable of
doing extremely hard things and can be your own biggest supporter for change. Extend
gratitude to yourself for trying to overcome challenging times to create a more sustainable life
moving forward.

About Amber Ambriz

Amber enjoys working with adolescents, adults, individuals struggling with body image issues, stress, anxiety and panic attacks.

View Profile