Holiday Advice from The Emily Program Community

Hands in cheer

We reached out to The Emily Program community and asked them to share their best holiday advice to those in eating disorder recovery. Here is what they said!

  • Be gentle and compassionate with yourself. – Kara Marell
  • It’s okay to be terrified or anxious around this time of the year, realize that those feelings are totally valid. Surround yourself with positive and helpful people during your time of recovery. Set boundaries with yourself and family. Skills or distractions are what I find most helpful for me, such as having a conversation during a meal, fidgets, a game, a movie, or funny videos. Focus on the joy of the holidays and family and friends. Don’t doubt yourself! – Lynzie Herron
  • Recognize that holidays don’t have to be focused around food. Shift the focus towards what we’re thankful for and discuss that with those around us. Develop new traditions to look forward to the following years. We developed a grateful tree this year and it completely changed my ruminating thoughts about food and anxiety to “what are we adding to our tree today?” – Heather Eiynck Coulter
  • Do what you’re comfortable with while still slightly challenging those ED thoughts. If that means eating another serving of potatoes, eating that piece of pie or sitting with the majority of people do it as you are comfortable. Know that they probably are just happy that you are participating in a healthy way. – Mariah Amesbury
  • I’ve been in recovery for 25 years and the holidays still challenge me. I remind myself that the holidays are a time of reflecting on what is good in the world, and that I am good in the world. – Sarah Geschke
  • In my house, I have definitely prepared all household members to make sure there is no body shaming going on! I’m not going to let anyone make me feel uncomfortable if I eat too much or too little on this day! It’s about family, tradition, and love… and yes, the love of food! For me, it’s okay to love food again. – Chris Camburn
  • The advice I give myself is that I am 100% allowed to take time and space for myself, to take a walk outside, to go do something fun like see a movie, or to even go grab a coffee or a treat somewhere. Anxiety is definitely a part of my family and sometimes 30 minutes away from them, even though I love them all, helps clear my mind! – Jordan Regan
  • As we celebrate the season, celebrate your amazing body and how far it has brought you! – Abbigail McGown Mertig
  • The best guidance I received around the holidays is to stay in my lane. To remind myself not to compare what others are doing and saying and eating with what I’m doing and saying and eating. I check in with myself multiple times and send a reminder that not everyone is aware of the battle I am fighting internally and that’s okay. It helps me in moments when someone makes a negative comment about food or appearance. – Johnna Mitich
  • What I’ve found important is to have a friend who’s familiar with my struggles who is “just a text away.” Then, actually use that resource. Reaching out and being like, “Hey, this is hard. I just wanted to check-in for a minute.” If your friend tries to help and makes a suggestion for coping, be willing to be vulnerable and give it a try! I love the mantra “nothing changes if nothing changes,” which is a helpful nudge in the right direction of using a skill like Opposite Action. – Bri
  • Do what you need to do to be comfortable. If that means sitting away from the throng of family and friends, then do it. – Emma Simone Thiemann
  • Don’t fall into the restrict/binge mindset that’s really prevalent around the holidays—stick to your meal plan the day of a big holiday meal. – Julia
  • Try to celebrate the holidays with people who bring out the best in you. – Kristin Wilson
  • I am 66 and went through treatment and recovery two years ago. My thoughts are don’t be afraid to tell people what you need. Don’t pretend things are ok when they’re not. Trust your treatment and be kind to yourself. You’re not alone! – Marie Umholtz
  • If any kind of calorie-counting, food shaming, or diet talk comes up, don’t feel obligated to participate in that conversation. It can be tempting to join in or get on your soapbox and argue, but what’s worked best for me is to simply not engage at all. Change the subject or get up and move to another area where you don’t have to hear it. – Kristin Sande
  • Focus on what goes well rather than struggles or challenges. – Mary Kuester
  • If possible, surround yourself with a supportive and understanding group of people. The holidays can be really difficult. Acknowledge this and give yourself permission to not be perfect. Give yourself permission to do your best and let that be enough. Take time to yourself when you need it. Self-care is so important at this time of year. Also, acknowledge the good times! If you feel good, let yourself sit in that feeling! – Erin Donohue
  • Don’t miss a dinner, an evening, or a celebration just because you’re scared. Don’t isolate yourself. Be nourished by the love around you. – Milly Lussier
  • Have a plan and a person to hold you accountable and to support you. I’m scared, too. This is my first holiday since being diagnosed. My plan is one bite at a time. Remember, you ARE enough. You need to nourish to flourish. You won’t be the only one in the world during the holidays battling an eating disorder. Your Emily Program family is also eating the holiday meals while being scared and feeling alone with their ED. We are all in recovery together… one bite at a time! – Kate
  • If you can have someone ready to text (another person from treatment, a recovery insta buddy, a friend, or therapist), I definitely recommend it! Just saying, “This day might be hard for me, can I text you if I need to?” and feeling prepared has been really helpful for me! – Alexa
  • Go into the day constantly reminding yourself what the holiday means to you and that your eating disorder doesn’t get to take that away from you! Have someone at the gathering that knows and can be there for support if you need it—and ask them to follow up with you for the next couple days as well because those days can be JUST as hard. And, bring your coping skills! Silly putty, essential oils, your journal, etc. Step away from a breather if you need to. Also, eat the piece of pie! You’ll look back and regret it if you don’t. – Taylor Bustos
  • Make sure you have accountability and support. My recovery friends and I call each other acountabilibuddies. If you are at a family function, tell someone there that you have a meal plan. If you know what foods will be there ahead of time, you can choose what you want before you go and you won’t be as overwhelmed when you get there and see all the food. You just have to put what you chose on your plate. Bring fidgets if they are helpful. Remind yourself that your body breaks down the nutrients the same way it does with food you are comfortable with. Your body knows what to do with it and how to use it. Food is medicine. – Nikki Chin
  • Remember that your body DESERVES and needs nourishment, and you deserve a joyful, laughter-filled holiday with loved ones. You are worthy of a fun Thanksgiving holiday, no matter what your ED tells you. – Shalini Wickramatilake
  • Try cooking something yourself! Something new that you’d be most comfortable with! I made a sweet potato and dried fruit casserole with cinnamon and it made my holiday 10 times better. And yes, I ate that plus the food that was made for the rest of the family. I just needed one thing to be comfortable with! – Kathryn Monsewic

And finally, from us at The Emily Program, we hope you have a peaceful holiday. To all of those struggling or those in recovery, we see you, we admire you, and we support you!

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