How to Deal With the Holidays When You Have an Eating Disorder

eating disorder recover

On the surface, the holidays represent a time of joy and togetherness. People get together with friends and family that they haven’t seen in a while; and of course, the holidays wouldn’t be complete without food. 

From Halloween to New Year’s, people are consuming copious amounts of food. But not everyone can just happily sit and enjoy themselves during this time of year. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, nearly 30 million Americans suffer from anorexia, bulimia nervosa, or a binge eating disorder. And for those who have or have had suffered from eating disorders, the holidays can be an absolute nightmare.  

As someone who continues to struggle with recovery, the chance of relapsing during this time of year for me is incredibly high. And I’m sure many others feel the same way. 

The holidays are a stressful time of year, and your eating disorder shouldn’t add to the mental strain. Here are a few tips to make it through the holiday season. 

1. Get a Support System

how to survive the holidays with an eating disorder
credit: Gemma Chua Tran

It sounds cliche, but having someone you can turn to can make a world of difference. It’s not necessary for everyone in your family to know what you’re struggling with. But have at least one person you can trust and talk to when you feel stressed or triggered. If you feel like you’re going to be judged and are not comfortable talking to someone close to you, there are countless eating disorder helplines to call.  

2. Create Boundaries

how to survive the holidays with an eating disorder
credit: Shvets Productions

This is the time of year when everyone is talking about the diets they’re going to start and the gyms they’re going to join once the holiday season is over. It may sound harmless, but for ED sufferers, weight-related topics are a huge trigger. Many family members also think it’s okay to comment on your body, which is never okay. If you find yourself in this situation, try preoccupying yourself with something different. Or better yet, try to change the conversation. You don’t have to listen to a conversation you’re uncomfortable with. 

3. Focus on Your Recovery Plan

eating disorder recovery therapy
credit: Shvetz Productions

If you’re currently in recovery, structure and sticking to the treatment plan that you’ve discussed with your therapist and doctor is key. This time of year is hectic, but it’s important to continue to do the exercises you’ve been assigned. If your treatment requires you to be on a meal plan, stick to it. 

4. Don’t Try to Do it All

eating disorder recovery holidays
credit: Samson Katt

This is the time of year for parties and get-togethers and the need to please everyone is on high. Guess what? You don’t have to. You’ll stress yourself out even more if you try to attend every soiree you’re invited to. Your mental health is more important than a party. 

5. Cut Yourself Some Slack

thanksgiving eating disorder tips
credit: Drop the Label Movement

This is going to be the most difficult thing to work on, but, it’s the most important thing to remember during the holidays. Stay away from the scale, and try not to count the calories of the food you’re eating.

Remind yourself of the progress you’ve made in recovery and celebrate yourself. If you eat more than you intended to and start to feel guilty, take a breath and remind yourself that you did nothing wrong. Everyone eats a lot this time of year, and that’s okay. And if you do end up relapsing, it’s not the end of the world. Continue to move forward, and inform someone in your support system that a relapse has occurred. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Most importantly, if you know someone close to you is suffering from an ED, do not judge them, but be there for them. Don’t police the food that they are or aren’t eating, as that can set them back even more. Respect their recovery and don’t force them into situations they aren’t comfortable with.

Remember, you are strong. And though it will be hard, do not let food prevent you from enjoying time with your family and friends. Recovery is never easy, but with the right tools, you can beat your ED.


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Alysia Stevenson
Alysia Stevenson is a twenty-seven New York City transplant currently living in Florida with her boyfriend and three furbabies. When she's not writing, you can find her watching beauty tutorials on Youtube or Parks and Rec for the millionth time.