Holiday Vacation and Recovery: Plan and Know Your Limits

Eating Disorder Treatment During the Holidays

Vacations are an exciting adventure to plan and to anticipate. Being able to plan and know what to prepare for around the holiday season can help you in your recovery process.

Often holidays mean gathering with family, friends, and attending multiple parties. It can be stressful when approaching this for the first time when working your recovery process.

Knowing how to plan ahead and recognize your limits can help the holidays in eating disorder recovery enjoyable.

Recognizing Your Triggers

Being able to plan head involves identifying and recognizing your triggers around food, people, and situations. Working through these with your treatment team can be extremely helpful.

Understanding what foods or meals may be triggering, conversations with others or topics. Learning how to cope, manage, and know when to walk away is extremely important.

Another essential part of understanding your limits is being able to understand your meal plan and how to apply it to holidays.

Working with your dietician can help you plan for holiday meals, parties, and events and know how to plan your recovery around these situations. This can aid in reducing fears around holiday events, as well as help you focus on enjoyable moments than food [1].

Another trigger can be after meal time and have a plan of action to keep your mind busy and not succumbing to eating disorder thoughts.

Keeping distracted with friends, playing games with family members, or engaging in a conversation with others can help you remember the holiday season and not focus on your eating disorder.

Woman enjoying her holiday vacationWorking with your therapist on coping skills and stress reduction strategies during a holiday vacation can be extremely helpful.

During holiday gatherings it can be tempting to isolate from others or avoid parties altogether. Remember that part of recovery is being able to approach practical challenges with a pre-determined plan.

Being able to discuss this with your treatment team, peer support group, and work out a plan to plan ahead.

Sometimes not going to a gathering is okay, but again, talking it through with your treatment team on your thought process and a reason for wanting not to attend a holiday event can help you understand and recognize if it is a limit or an avoidance.

Before Going on Your Holiday Vacation

Prior to heading out on your holiday vacation, thinking about what clothes to pack may seem like a minor detail to most, but those in treatment or recovery it is an essential part of vacation and relapse prevention planning.

Planning ahead about what movement, activities you will be engaging in, and what clothes will be best suited to these events.

Most often, taking comfortable clothes that you feel good about is a good option. Asking a trusted friend to help you go through your clothes and assist in choosing appropriate outfits is also a way not to feel anxious about choosing clothes.

Taking care of yourself is a priority [2]. Remember that holidays are not the top priority, but caring for yourself is. Part of caring for yourself during the holidays is keeping your recovery in place, and recognizing triggers.

One way to stay on track is setting up a telephone session with your treatment team while on holiday vacation. This allows you to have a check-in while away and being able to go over any issues that arise while you are away.

Bringing your journal or coping skill tools with you is also helpful while on holiday vacation. This can help you practice your skills or process out any fears, anxieties, or issues that do arise.

Another helpful tool can be to look up any local peer support groups for eating disorders in the area you will be traveling too for another level of support.

Taking various mediums such as your art supplies, camera, yoga mat, or other essentials to help you stay on a routine, or give you another level of coping tools. It can be stress reducing to go to a local park and take photos, sketch, or practice yoga.

Researching local churches or spiritual faith gatherings can also be renewing and centering during the holidays.

Talk with your family and friends who you are going to visit for a holiday about your self-care needs as well as your recovery plan. Reminding them that time for yourself is important and share your triggers and limits with them if you feel able to.

Once the Holiday Starts

Focusing on the bigger picture of enjoying being around family and friends can help with relapse prevention.

Woman enjoying her holiday vacation

Remembering that the eating disorder can be managed through self-care, stress-reducing tools, and check-ins with your treatment team can help you focus on being in the moment.

Talk with your family and friend about expectations during the holidays. Let them know your limits and expectations as well. Working together with your family can help everyone understand and support your recovery.

For some, however, this may not be possible, depending on family dynamics and support. If possible, think about bringing someone with you to your holiday vacation or gaining support from someone who does support your recovery.

When planning your holiday vacation while in recovery can be stressful, remember that you have options and resources available to help you manage and cope with various events and situations.

Remember that your self-care and recovery are a priority, and being able to stand up for your own recovery is essential.

Working with your treatment team, support group, and planning ahead prior to your travel can help you stay on your recovery path and enjoy the holidays at the same time.

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1] 7 Tips for Handling Social Gatherings and Holidays in Bulimia Recovery. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2017, from
[2] Poppink, J. (n.d.). Holiday Travel: Your Recovery Kit. Retrieved August 30, 2017, from

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on December 10, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 10, 2017.
Published on