Managing Your Eating Disorder During The Holidays

We’re well into the holiday season as we’ve already experienced Thanksgiving and move expectantly toward Christmas and the New Year.  This time of year evokes a lot of thoughts and feelings for people – some easier and pleasant and some not so easy and not as pleasant.  For many, the holidays evoke warm thoughts and memories, anticipation of familiar holiday meals, and traditions that give their lives a rhythm and sense of meaning.  While for others, this can be a stressful and anxiety provoking time – whether it’s about the abundance of food, challenging family relationships, or the loss and grief experienced from missing a loved one.  They may struggle to experience a rhythm and sense of meaning in their limages (7)ives in the wake of these stresses and heartaches.  For anyone struggling with an eating disorder, these feelings can be amplified.   Eating disorders are a multi-faceted disease that takes hard work, commitment, and courage to overcome.  If you are struggling with an eating disorder, preparation and planning ahead can be helpful to combat the anxiety and concerns you may have during this holiday season.  Here are some tips that may help to safely guide you through the holidays.

  • If you are currently working with an eating disorder recovery team, be sure to discuss any concerns you are anticipating – problem solving together can help ease some of that tension
  • If you are working with a registered dietitian and following a meal plan, try to stick to it over the holidays – unusual schedules and traveling can interrupt a regular eating pattern that is meant to keep you healthy and on track to recovery
  • If you are traveling any great distance, it is wise to pack snacks that you are familiar and comfortable with for ease of following your meal plan
  • Tell the food police to go away! and allow yourself to enjoy that special food item (or items) that you may not see again for another year – practice giving yourself permission
  • If you have a family member or a friend involved in your recovery already, enlist their support to be a reality check with food portions and to share in eating with you
  • Identify a support person ahead of time – someone you can call or to talk to if you are struggling with your eating disorder, addictive behaviors, negative thoughts, or difficult emotions
  • Take advantage of support groups or join one if you are not currently involved – just knowing you are not alone in your struggle can help ease the burden you bear
  • Make a list of coping skills that you can utilize when faced a difficult thought, emotion, or circumstance – take a break and some time away when you need it, without over-isolating
  • Give yourself the gift of a vacation from the scale – this is often very triggering and fans the flame of eating disorder thoughts instead of being recovery-minded
  • Don’t overload your schedule – set boundaries when you need to and enjoy the things you decide to engage in
  • Take time for self-care – this never gets old and never loses its importance in recovery or life
  • Shift the focus away from food when you can – celebrate and enjoy the relationships that surround you, tell someone how much they mean to you
  • Make time to serve others – whether it’s the homeless, toys for children, or a neighbor in need
  • Have a vision for where you would like your mind and heart to be during this holiday season – take time to recalibrate and attune to your vision whenever needed

For family and friends of those struggling with an eating disorder:

  • Express that you care about your loved one and want to support them
  • Be patient and ask them what they think would be most helpful for them
  • Acknowledge any progress or hard-work you see your loved one doing
  • Avoid making comments on appearance, body image, and size
  • Avoid indulging in conversation about the richness of food and “having to work it off”
  • Help to curb any unhealthy talk that arises in conversation surrounding food and body image
  • Compliment qualities that you appreciate about your loved one – personality, character, etc.
  • Recognize and support when your loved one may need a break for a few moments
  • Remember that they are not their eating disorder – find other ways to engage with your loved one by catching up, playing games, watching a good movie, or enlisting them to help out in some way

Remember to take the holiday season one day at a time and remind yourself that “this too shall pass” when you find yourself experiencing a challenging moment.  Practicing an attitude of gratitude can also be helpful to saturate your mind, body, and spirit in the richness that already surrounds you in your daily life.  “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” –Eleanor Roosevelt.

Inner Door Center is here to support you on your journey to wholeness and offers support groups as well as different levels of care for your individualized needs:

  • Weekly on Tuesdays from 7-8 pm we offer a free and open support group to anyone struggling with an eating disorder – discussions will be recovery focused & led by a licensed therapist.
  • Reconnect with Recovery is a free support group on the 3rd Saturdays of each month from 11 am – 1 pm; connect with those in the recovery community as you are led through an hour of yoga followed by an hour of discussion and support.
  • For a limited time, we are offering a Holiday Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) for college students who are on winter break. If you are needing extra support while home from college, you can participate in our PHP program for a shorter time period.

Please call Inner Door Center for any inquiries you may have at (248) 336-2868 or check out our website at  May you each find peace, love, and support throughout your holiday season.

Written by: Erika Schwan RDN, LMT, RYT 200

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