Strategies for Dealing with an Eating Disorder During the Holidays

eating disorder
Do you know how to navigate dealing with your teen’s eating disorder this holiday season? (photo credit:

The holiday season can be difficult for everyone.  There is so much going on, so many things to do, and so much stress it is a wonder any of us look forward to this time of year at all.  But if you are dealing with an eating disorder, this time of year can be even tougher.  The key to navigating the holiday season without getting knocked off track is to plan ahead and have strategies ready for the most likely stressors and difficult situations.  Here are some strategies you can use to maintain control and make it though the holiday season without having a meltdown.

1.     Plan Ahead for Success

One of the things about this time of year that can prove especially difficult for those with eating disorders is dealing with many events that seem focused on food and lots of people who are not part of their daily routine.  These two things individually or together can be overwhelming and many people struggle not to stray back into old unhealthy habits and thought patterns.  The best way to avoid this is to acknowledge the possibility of it happening and them make a plan of how to handle those feelings in a healthy way.

2.     Do What is Working

Another thing that can make the holidays season so challenging for those with eating disorders is that they buy into the idea that these special days have to be different than other days.  While that may be true in terms of the day’s activities or the people who will be involved in those activities, it doesn’t have to be true for everything.  If you have a meal plan that is working, stick to it.  If you have a routine that is working, stick to it.  The holidays don’t have to be different to be great.  If you need to alter family plans in order to stick to the things that are working for you, explain that to your family and ask them for support.

3.     Use Your Support System

Identify the people in your life that are acting as your everyday support system and work with them to determine how you can ensure support will be available throughout the holidays.  Let go of the idea that support has to be in person.  You can just as easily reach out for help over the phone or through email.  Knowing who is there to help you makes it much more likely that you will be willing to reach out for help when and if the time comes that it is needed.

4.     Know Your Triggers

Although it might seem as though food would be the most likely trigger, this isn’t always the case.  Those with eating disorders may also be triggered by emotional interactions, family members, or situations.  Understanding your triggers ahead of time will enable you to be aware of them if they happen and to know when to ask for help.

5.     Draw Your Boundaries

As part of identifying your triggers, you may realize that there are some situations or people with whom you cannot interact without being triggered.   In these cases, it is ok to set boundaries around who you will see, how you will spend your time, and what you are willing to tolerate.


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