Family Holiday Meals – Tips to Avoid Binging & Disordered Eating

Article Contributed by Former Staff of The Meadows Ranch – Deborah Russo, Psy.D., Dena Cabrera, Psy.D., & Amy Spahr, LCSW

Ozzie & Harriet’s’ House it isn’t: The Holiday Family Meal and other topics to Binge on…

Somebody remind me again how I am supposed to do this?

Turkey with and to not bingeGoing to my family’s house for the holidays is not something that gives me warm fuzzies if you know what I mean. It always turns out the same way, I go in with a good attitude, saying it is going to be different, and I leave feeling like a failure.

What is going to be different this time? I ask my therapist.

“You tell me,” she says… of course… she goes there!

Well, I have done a lot of work with setting limits –“right, go on”…

And even though I feel scared of it all, I can use the things we practiced during the difficult times, like dinner and tough conversation times. I remind myself of how we played it out several times and know it is just time to challenge myself and do it.

A great deal of the work we do with disordered eating has to do with helping them build the skills to manage life differently, along with changing the way they do relationships. Many individuals who have undergone struggles with eating disorders whether it is anorexia, bulimia all have difficulty knowing their own limits and needs.

Finding their place and their roles within their families and other relationships without the eating disorder at the forefront are equally challenging. For a sufferer or even a recovered individual, the holidays can be a stressful time because food, mood, and family are intensely connected.

“So what is it you can say to inspire me”? I say to my therapist looking for a confidence boost!” She smiles at me and pauses……… asks me to list off all the events that I have gotten through so far this year without falling off the cliff. …Let’s see… break up with a boyfriend, layoff from work, best girlfriend’s wedding, … But, I didn’t succeed through all those things!” “Remind me what your definition of success is?” she asks.

Defining “success” has always been difficult for individuals in recovery. After falling off the wagon, so to speak, old rules such as “must be perfect at all times, don’t let them see you sweat ever, keep all struggles to yourself, bury yourself in the food, focus on your faults, have no fun, feel alone, go home ruminate and isolate for two weeks on a binge feast” seem to surface and take over.

Instead, new rules need to be implemented such as “accept yourself as you are, go with intention of having fun, enjoy people, make friends, eat slowly and mindfully, focus on your good qualities and what you have to give, and avoid isolation.” It is important to continually repeat this new way of thinking during stressful times. “I look at myself with kindness and compassion, I do see that although I tripped up here and there, I still stayed on the cliff and did not fall off! I used my skills and survived.”

As the holidays approach, here are a set of skills to empower you for the challenge of going home for the holidays:

  • Use limit setting- take my own car and leave if conversations begin going south, hot and heated and negative.
  • Take along a supportive friend with me; I don’t have to go it alone.
  • Practice using rational thoughts and mindful eating.
  • Set some reasonable goals for myself that include realistic expectations.
  • Pay attention to my feelings and remember to get up from the table and distract myself from desire to binge.
  • Use boundaries and stay connected to myself.
  • Eat in balance, moderation and avoid skipping meals so I am not already in deprivation mode before I get there.

A significant number of women and men, along with adolescents and children suffer from binge eating problems and disorders. Studies report as many as 3 to 5% of US population is struggling with binge eating disorders.

Food in summer to not bingeRegardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic standing, etc., using food to cope with difficult emotions or just plain boredom can become a lifelong problem for many. Suffering in silence and experiencing the taboo within our culture about struggles with overeating and being overweight only add to the mix of ingredients contributing to isolation and self-loathing.

Signs to be concerned about may include:

  • Inability to control eating, feeling powerless to stop and eating until you feel physically sick
  • Mood problems that include depression or anxiety that affect your quality of life or functioning
  • Binge eating to deal with stress and life problems
  • Feelings of disgust and shame about your eating habits
  • Isolating to eat meals and thinking about food all the time getting in the way of life enjoyment
  • Experiencing physical, medical or interpersonal problems that are related to your binge eating

We live in a culture saturated in an ideology of compulsive doing, being, thinking, buying and eating….this makes it all the more difficult to set limits within ourselves and avoid using things outside ourselves to numb or cope with stressors.

It is not an easy task to have recovered from eating disorders such as Binge Eating, but it is a doable one! With the right help, support and healing, you can sit at the holiday table and enjoy the well-deserved festivities with family.

Article Contributed by Former Staff of The Meadows Ranch:

For over 25 years, The Meadows Ranch has offered an unparalleled depth of care through its unique, comprehensive, and individualized program for treating eating disorders and co-occurring conditions affecting adolescent girls and women. Set on scenic ranch property in the healing landscape of Wickenburg, Arizona, The Meadows Ranch allows for seamless transitions between its structured multi-phase treatment. A world-class clinical team of industry experts leads the treatment approach designed to uncover and understand the “whys” of the eating disorder through a host of proven modalities. Providing individuals with tools to re-engage in a healthy relationship with food – and with themselves – disempowers eating disorders and empowers individuals with a renewed enthusiasm for life. Contact us today at 888-496-5498 and find out why The Meadows Ranch is the best choice for eating disorder treatment and recovery. For more information call 1-888-496-5498.. or visit

Recently Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 2, 2018
Published on, Eating Disorders Help