Finding Support While Out of Town for the Holidays

Contributor: Sharon Zimbler, LMFT of Montecatini

mark-101293_640The holidays can be a challenging time for people with eating disorders and many people in recovery find they dread the holidays. However, it is possible to create a new experience around old triggers; being prepared can help minimize these triggers and prevent lapses.

It is very important to have a plan if you are going out of town. Start planning now to make sure you have the best plan possible to help you through the holidays.

Tips for Finding Support

Here are some tips for finding support when you are out of town for the holidays.

  • First of all, develop a new perspective. Do not get into catastrophizing or fear about going out of town. Be optimistic and focus on feeling gratitude for being able to enjoy this time of year.
  • Discuss your anticipation for the holidays with your therapist, dietitian, or other members of your treatment team and support group. Talking about your concerns helps put them in perspective, and expressing your concerns out loud allows others to have a chance to reflect things back to you.


  • Have a well-thought-out and realistic game plan before you travel. Discuss plans with your therapist or treatment team so they can help you create a plan for your trip. Doing this may help alleviate some anxiety. Once your plans are in place, remember that you can be flexible if your plans change.
  • Look up support meeting locations in the destinations you are traveling to before you leave. Remember, you can always find meetings online if you can’t find an EDA, ANAD, or other support group nearby.
  • Have people you can call to check in with. Don’t wait until you are struggling to reach out for help; set a tentative check-in schedule before you leave.
  • Stick to your program of recovery. Structure your day so that you can stay on track and prioritize your recovery. If you experience some struggles, don’t assume that the trip is ruined; use your skills and supports to get back on track.
  • Stay on your meal plan if you have one. Don’t start using your eating disorder behaviors in anticipation of the possibility of eating more over the holidays. Stay in the moment.
  • Discuss your concerns with your travel partners. Keeping your feelings inside will only make it harder. Ask for support if you need it and discuss how to structure your days ahead of time.
  • Don’t overdo it. Do not try to do see everything or everyone. Set boundaries ahead of time so others will anticipate how much time they can spend with you. This is a time when people pleasing can lead to eating disorder behaviors.


  • Know where the exits are, whether you are with family or friends. This means if you start to feel triggered or notice yourself struggling, you have a plan for what to do to take care of yourself and focus on recovery.
  • Focus on the positives. Keep a gratitude list so you can focus on the good things going on.
  • Prepare for uncomfortable family or interpersonal interactions. Role-play situations beforehand and have your “go to” coping skills that you know will help if you feel triggered.
  • Consider your vision and goals for your trip. Remind yourself of these throughout your trip.
  • Take this time to work on flexibility. Look at your trip as an opportunity for growth and chance to practice recovery skills in a different environment instead of a challenge to be conquered.

Focus on the Positives

Remember, focus on the positives about the holidays. It gets easier. The key is to remember that recovery may not look the way you think it will. The path to recovery is full of ups and downs, but the important thing is to keep doing the next right thing, no matter what.

Keep the following numbers handy in case you need support.

  • NEDA Information and Referral Helpline: (800) 931-2237
  • NAMI Information HelpLine: (800) 950-NAMI (6264)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255)

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are some ways that you have taken extra steps to maintain a support system for your recovery while out of town?

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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 5th, 2014
Published on