How to Support My Recovery with Structure During the Holidays?

Woman struggling with eating disorder

It’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” for most people.  For those in eating disorder recovery, it can also be the most challenging time of the year.  With holiday traditions come traditional holiday meals, leaving those in recovery vulnerable to emotional turmoil and relapse.  Creating a plan and maintaining structure throughout this time of year can help you to maintain control so that you can enjoy the celebration safely!

Have A Plan

No matter how your family celebrates the holidays, it is pretty universal that there is food within arms reach all day. This availability, combined with holiday stress, often trigger binge eating and other compulsive eating behaviors [1].

To avoid this, create an eating plan prior to the big day.This plan should be as specific and detailed as possible. What kind of food will be provided where you are celebrating?

Will this menu cause you stress or anxiety? If so, plan on bringing recovery-based food that you can enjoy without shame or guilt.

Consistency is also vital to relapse prevention. This means consistency in what you are eating as well as when you are eating. Nourish your body at specific times throughout the day to avoid the temptation to binge or over-indulge.

Assign A “Recovery Buddy”

Assign a designated “recovery buddy” beforehand so that you don’t have to overcome this challenge alone. Whether this person is a member of your treatment team, a family member, or friend, ask them if they would be willing to support you throughout the day.

This support should include eating meals with you, talking you through your meals if you’re struggling, and being there to combat any negative talk about body image or food that may come up.

Know How to Ground Yourself

While no one wants to interrupt holiday celebrations to implement a coping mechanism, there may be tough moments when this is necessary. Don’t be ashamed of taking care of yourself.

Be aware of what coping tools have helped you maintain recovery and make them available during the holidays.Whip out your yoga mat for some sun salutations, download an app with soothing meditations, or bring along a pad and paper for drawing or journaling.

Track Your Experience

Woman struggling with anorexia in the winterJournaling can provide valuable insight to what triggers ED thoughts and behaviors, as well as what works in combating them. Don’t be afraid to journal how you are feeling throughout the day and what is happening to make you feel that way.

If you find yourself really struggling, it may also be helpful to remind yourself of your motivations for recovery. Write down why you deserve to be free from disordered thoughts and behaviors and why you are worth healing.

Meticulously planning your holiday may not sound fun or festive to you, but it is a crucial part of maintaining eating disorder recovery. Each year will not be like this but planning and structure your holiday’s now ensured that you will find yourself free and recovered in the future!

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


[1] (2014). Holiday stress can trigger binge eating and other compulsive eating disorders. Mental Health Weekly Digest, pg. 97.

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 11, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 11, 2017.
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