The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time filled with traditions, many of which revolve around food. For individuals struggling with an eating disorder, this can be a pressure-filled and stressful time. Eating disorders can make holiday meals extra challenging or a time of dread, even prompting the worsening of symptoms. 
Holiday gatherings and spending time with family do not have to be an ordeal for those with an eating disorder. With some pre-holiday planning and coping strategies, eating challenges and anxiety can be managed – and the celebrations can be enjoyed. Here are a few tactics to try while navigating the often hectic holidays.

Plan Ahead
For those with an eating disorder, it can be helpful to think about the meal ahead of time. Take time before you go to envision a balanced plate including all the major food groups. Thinking about your plate can help decrease anxiety before and during the meal by helping you feel more in control rather than going into the meal unprepared. If it’s a family meal, you most likely will know what is being served. If you are unsure, ask the host so you can develop a plan. 

Have a Support System
Before your holiday celebrations kick-off, speak with your therapist and/or dietitian about your hesitations. Additionally, reach out to a friend or family member who is familiar with your situation. These support systems can help you develop healthy coping strategies and can be there if you need them during your holiday events. 

Set Boundaries
The holidays will mean that you may see people who do not understand your situation and may engage in weight-related talk. You can prepare for this by conducting some role-playing with your therapist. They should be able to help you steer an uncomfortable conversation into something less threatening. Use these situations as an opportunity to be confident and discuss more positive things. 

This is probably the most important thing you can do during the holiday season. Be compassionate and forgiving with yourself. Eliminate any negative self-talk, focus on cherishing time with loved ones, and don’t be afraid to say no to a party or an event in order to de-stress and take time for yourself. 

Your holiday season should be fun and allow you the freedom to enjoy your friends and family. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, Aloha Integrative Health is here for you. We have clinicians specifically trained to work with individuals with eating disorders. Reach out today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards meaningful change.

About the Author

Kimberly Sandberg Aloha Integrative Health
Kim Sandberg is the owner and founder of Aloha Integrative Health and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She has two advanced degrees: a Masters of Science in Nursing as a Nurse Anesthetist and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. She has worked in a variety of settings, though the biggest impact on Kim and her work came from her 28 years of service in the Navy Reserve.

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