Eating Disorder Challenges During the Holidays

The Holidays are a Season, not a Lifetime
Contributed Article by Staff of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

In the US, up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder[1].  For those who struggle with an eating disorder, or strive to recover from one, the holidays can be a challenging time. The celebrations really start on October 31 with Halloween and basically draw to an end the beginning of January with the ringing in of a new year.

Each event translates into food.  On Halloween, candy is in abundance; on Thanksgiving, turkey and every imaginable side dish; and on Christmas, there are cookies, more candy, and all sorts of other tasty treats.

For those struggling with food, here are some effective tips on enjoying the holiday season:

  • Focus on the reason for the season. In order to truly enjoy the holidays, increase your focus on the reason for the season – it’s a time of peace, joy and goodwill.  Cultivate gratitude in your heart and thank God for all the good in your life.  Increase your commitment to taking care of your body through healthy exercise, proper nutrition and sleep.  Extend increased grace to yourself and others.  Your home does not have to be immaculate; you can purchase an appetizer for the office party instead of creating it yourself; you do not have to attend every season-related event.  Remember to extend this same grace to others if they let you down.
  • Decrease expectations.  Keep in mind that Hallmark cards rarely reflect the real world.  If they did, no one would buy them. Don’t expect perfection because it doesn’t exist. If a family member proved difficult last year, he or she probably will do the same this year. If you expect everyone to behave well and everything to go perfectly smooth, you are a self-appointed candidate for disappointment.
  •  Decrease stress by making lists; deciding what to spend and how much time you will commit to shopping.  If you do not find the “perfect” gift, the world will not end.  Reduce stress surrounding food-related activities. Try to make peace with the concept of holiday-related food, knowing that it will figure prominently at any event. Be prepared by consuming a small meal or snack before attending cocktail parties or similar functions, then make smart food selections at the buffet table. Decrease guilt; even better, eliminate it altogether. Enjoy holiday food, and if you consume a little more than planned, it’s okay.  Tomorrow is a new day.

Always remember, the holidays are a season, not a lifetime.  Normality, and all that it entails, will resume again.

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Published Date: December 6, 2012

Last Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 6, 2012
Page last updated: December 6, 2012
Published on, Help for Eating Disorders