Surviving the Holiday Season in Eating Disorder Recovery

With Thanksgiving only a few days behind us and Christmas fast approaching, I am sitting here worried beyond belief on how this holiday season will go. Cookies, pies, candy, appetizers, and big meals are trademarks of the holiday season. For many, this is the best part of the holiday season, but what about those who are currently in stages of eating disorder recovery? No matter what stage you are in, the holidays won’t be easy, but there are ways to manage.

Know your limits

For anyone, the holidays are overwhelming. Invasive family, travel, and empty bank accounts have affected us all at one point in the holiday season or another. For those in eating disorder recovery, there is a huge added pressure. Knowing your limits mentally, emotionally, and physically will be important in surviving the season. Listening to your brain and body for their cues can help alleviate the build up of emotion. It is more than okay to take a break from everything that is stressful. Walking away from trigger situations will not only save you from a holiday meltdown, but your family from the stress of watching it and not knowing how to help.

Follow your meal plan

Thanksgiving in particular is renowned for the fast until dinner so everyone can have room to eat until they enter food coma; however, chances are if you are struggling with an eating disorder or are new to recovery this is not a good plan for you. Listening to your body for hunger cues will help you stay in the best mindset you can for the day. Whatever your meal plan looks like, your doctor or nutritionist has made it specifically for your body and it’s needs. Food is your medicine and in order to be the best you possible, you need the correct dosage. Eating enough to fulfill your body and your mind, but not too much to where you are beating yourself up over it for days should be the goal. Balance isn’t easy, but that is not news to anyone.

Recognize triggers ahead of time

What are your triggers? The holidays are typically a time we see the relatives we encounter once a year, we return home from school, or we see friends we haven’t seen since high school. No matter the case, someone always has something to say that will trigger you. For me, it’s comments on my body image, asking about school, and talk about food -- all very common topics at the holidays. Acknowledging that your triggers are unavoidable can help you plan ahead for when they come up. A few I have picked up over the years:

In response to comments about body image: “I am feeling happy and healthy”

In response to comments on how little I'm eating: “I am saving room for dessert”

In response to comments on how much I’m eating: “Thanksgiving is my favorite meal”

Not everyone needs to know your personal business, so don’t feel obligated to share. Keeping your responses simple will make it less likely the conversation will continue.

Set Goals!

The holiday season can be hard, but it can also be a rewarding time in your recovery! Depending on your circumstances, you may be surrounded by people you love this time of year and the security of this is an added bonus. As stressful as the season can be, if you feel like you are in a safe and trusted environment, take advantage of it. You never know what milestones in your recovery you can hit until you try.

There is nothing easy about the holiday season and there is nothing easy about eating disorder recovery. Together they may look overwhelmingly daunting, but it is possible to make it through. This time of year may be enjoyable or it may be miserable; either way it will be what it will be and all you can control is your response to the situation.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5