Organizing Holiday Events: Maintaining Your Recovery and Your Sanity

Contributor: Leigh Bell, BA, writer for Eating Disorder Hope

Christmas snowmanIf you have the responsibility to plan a holiday event but have the greater responsibility to maintain your recovery, keep it simple.

Plan a simple event while simply following your recovery guidelines. And remember recovery is far more important than even the most important holiday event.

Start Early and Organize

The earlier planning for an event begins, the easier event planning becomes. We all know last-minute stress is no fun. So grab a notebook and start writing down the plan.

Better yet, you can make your own planner with a simple binder and a few page dividers for sections like venue, food, decorations, etc. This will allow you to see at once all that needs to be done, likely making your tasks feel less overwhelming.

Make Decisions

First, pick a date carefully. Plan the event on a day you can fully devote to planning. You don’t want to be too harried to focus on both your recovery and the event. Now, pick where you want to hold the event. It may be cheaper to hold the party at your house, but will preparing your home for many guests add to your stress?

That’s the last thing we want to do. So you may consider hosting at a public venue. Or if you do have it at your home, allot from your budget a small staff to help set up, serve, and clean up afterwards.


Pumpkin PatchThese don’t have to be fancy. Paper invitations are nice, and has many shops that offer a personalized invitation you can print yourself and save money.[1] The service is simple and turnaround time is usually 24 hours. If this is too overwhelming, there’s nothing wrong with e-vites.

Some sites offer elegant invitations to email for free or for little cost. Remember, the idea is to reduce stress and maintain your recovery. Whether you use paper or email invitations, make your invite list and send them out early and before the holiday rush. Then your guests can plan for the event, and you can focus on recovery.

Food & Drink

Food you serve at the event should support your recovery. Serve food you are comfortable eating and will not trigger any eating disordered behavior. Now, full dinners are expensive, so if you’re doing this on your dime, you can limit the menu to hors d’oeuvres.

If you are using a public venue, try to find one that provides food, so you can literally take that off your plate. Many restaurants have party rooms, and some event locations contract with a caterer. However, some people find food preparation and planning meditative, and if you’re one of them, go for it.

Serving alcoholic drinks can also be expensive and problematic for some people with eating disorders, of whom almost half abuse alcohol, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. This rate is 5 times greater than what’s seen in the general population.

If alcohol is a problem for you, simply don’t serve it. Serve some attractive, delicious nonalcoholic drinks. If you do choose to serve alcohol and are concerned about price, narrow choices down to wine and beer.


Thanksgiving Harvest DollIt’s easy to go over the top with holiday decorations, but unless you have the time and enjoy doing this, keep it simple. Recovery and less stress is the goal this year. If the event is in your home, it’s likely you’ve already decorated for Christmas, and that may be enough. If not, consider a few fresh-flower arrangements.

Poinsettias are beautiful, festive, and affordable. Pair these with garland to make centerpieces. One of the best and inexpensive ways to create ambiance is music, and holiday music is wonderful. If holding your event at a location other than home, find one that is already decorated, and you’ll get more bang for your buck.[2]

If all of this seems too overwhelming, you can always say no to planning an event. Recovery is priority, and kindly saying no is sometimes what you need to do. The holidays will come again next year.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What steps have you taken to limit stress while celebrating the holidays in eating disorder recovery?

[1]: Krenek, C. (2014, November 13). Tips for Organizing Holiday Events. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
[2]:  Hard, R. (n.d.). 10 Tips to Reduce Employee Holiday Party Expenses. Retrieved October 20, 2015.

About the Author: Leigh Bell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in Creative Writing and French from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is a published author, journalist with 15 years of experience, and a recipient of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. Leigh is recovered from a near-fatal, decade-long battle with anorexia and the mother of three young, rambunctious children.

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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 17, 2015
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