Eating Disorder Signs to Watch for in Your Patients Over the Holidays

Doctor and patient talking

For those living with an eating disorder, the holidays may be the toughest time of the year. Holidays are often synonymous with large amounts of food, increased stress, and extended periods of time with family—which are all factors that can exacerbate eating disorder symptoms. Because eating disorder thoughts and behaviors can increase during the holidays, it’s important to be especially vigilant of your patients this time of year.

There are many common signs and symptoms healthcare providers should look for that denote the presence of an eating disorder. During the holidays, certain symptoms may become more noticeable, specifically the following:

  1. Weight loss or weight gain. Individuals struggling with a restrictive type of eating disorder commonly attempt to lose additional weight in order to “prepare” for the holiday. Alternatively, those with binge eating tendencies may begin or increase bingeing behaviors because of the additional food and stress. If you notice extreme weight fluctuations, especially during the holidays, it is recommended that you address this concern with your patient and refer them to eating disorder specialty care.
  2. Increased body talk. During the holidays, individuals with eating disorders may find themselves talking more frequently about their body size, shape, and weight. They may compare themselves to others or alter their daily routine. If you notice a patient engaging in negative body talk during the holidays, it’s vital to speak to them about it and potentially increase communication during the challenging time.
  3. Refusing to eat, eating small amounts, or overeating. If an individual dramatically changes their eating over the holidays, this may be a cause for concern. It’s important that patients with an eating disorder or in recovery from an eating disorder maintain their meal plan and recovery during the holidays. You can support your patient by helping them set clear goals and having conversations about concerns.
  4. Isolation. There are times when holidays become so challenging for an individual that they choose to isolate. Isolation is a drastic change in behavior and is different from taking a break from a situation. If an individual is refusing to leave home, speak to others, or becomes increasingly distant, that is a cause for concern. If you are aware this is happening, it is recommended to encourage the patient to meet with their therapist or began therapy to cope with the overwhelming emotions they may be feeling.

If you are concerned that a patient is suffering from an eating disorder, the most important thing you can do is address it. Speak openly with the patient about your concerns and potential treatment options. It’s essential to refer the patient to eating disorder specialty care where the illness can be treated promptly. The referral process for The Emily Program is simple; you or your patient can call 1-888-364-5977 or visit our get started page. From there, our admissions specialists will work with you and your patient to find an appropriate treatment option that will facilitate recovery and healing.

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