Honoring Your Meal Plan During the Holiday Season

Woman struggling with eating disorder

Contributor: Kirsten Haglund, Community Relations Representative for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment and Founder and President of the Kirsten Haglund Foundation

The holiday season can be simultaneously joyful and unbelievably stressful, especially for those in recovery from an eating disorder.

Besides the pressure of “performing” your recovery for family and friends, there is the pure emotional exhaustion that comes from continually feeling under the spotlight as well as the disappointment in the face of the fact that the holidays should be a time of joy and yet often they’re not.  Honoring your meal plan can be one of the most difficult challenges, yet it is far from impossible, and becomes easier with practice, preparation and self-care.

Here are a few ways to create a holiday game plan that has the potential for the most success, before, during and after mealtimes.

Identify Triggers

Preparation for holiday meal times is incredibly important. Work with your dietician or nutritional counselor to talk through and identify what kind of situations, conversations or foods can trigger anxiety.

Process the self-talk that happens during triggering circumstances, and practice speaking back to the eating disorder voice that can prevent the healthy self from being heard.

Identifying triggers beforehand gives you the tools to manage feelings of fear, stress, anger or anxiety when they arise around food or mealtimes.

Don’t Give Food Moral Value

This is something that many people do without realizing it; even those who do not struggle with eating disorders. They give foods moral value, labeling them “good” or “bad.” But food is food.

Foods are not creatures with a conscience capable of being, behaving or acting moral. The mere thought is ridiculous (and frankly, a bit hilarious).

Attempt to keep others’ flawed and faulty language about food from penetrating your own thoughts, values, and beliefs about food.

Instead, honor the foods served or available as choices with differing nutrient values and delicious tastes, and be thankful for the abundance.

Woman with an eating disorderSupport Team in Place

A treatment team is there to support you, so lean on them during the holiday season. Ask your therapist or another member of your team if they might be available for a call during particularly stressful or tough moments.

Also, enlist trusted family members and/or friends as accountability partners, ask them to check in on you, and express your fears and anxieties so they can know how best to help you.

It is also helpful to ask a couple of close friends of faith to pray for you – even start a group text message for prayer requests that you can go back to during difficult times.

Sometimes just that little bit of encouragement and knowing others are praying for you can be hugely helpful and give you strength.

Practice Acceptance and Forgiveness

Forgive yourself if you lose hope or stray from your meal plan. Forgive yourself if you fail to meet your goals for the holiday season.

Woman sitting in the snow

Take a deep breath and remember that honoring your meal plan or daily, unmitigated success in recovery is not required for long-term healing and wholeness. Practice affirming where you are, today, at the moment, as you go through the holiday season.

Accept that this is a particularly challenging time that will come with both victories and disappointments. Honoring your meal plan means keeping it as a priority, not a rulebook.

Practicing acceptance and forgiveness is key to growing as a person during the holiday season, flaws, missteps and all.

The holidays are challenging, but can also be a time for restoration, growth, and joy. But joy does not have to mean a fake smile, small talk, and a flawlessly performed recovery for the entire world to see.

It can be as simple as a profound, abiding acceptance of each moment, of each relationship, of each encounter with food.

The joy of the holiday can be in embracing it as an opportunity for deeper relationships and growing in recovery, and honoring yourself as a soul worthy of love, worthy to be cherished, and worthy of internal peace.


Kirsten+Haglund+HeadshotAbout the author: Kirsten Haglund continues to work as an advocate for greater awareness of eating disorders and resources for care. Since she won the crown of Miss America 2008, she has spoken on numerous college campuses, worked with youth and church groups domestically and abroad, lobbied Congress with the Eating Disorders Coalition, and started her own non-profit, the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, to raise funds and assist families financially in seeking treatment for eating disorders. She is also the Community Relations Specialist for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.


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 November 29, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 29, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com