Coping During the Holidays
The holidays often involve family rituals and traditions where food has a central role. The holidays also may be one of the few times that a family comes together each year. Planning ahead can help people with eating disorders (and their loved ones) manage these challenges and enjoy conversation and good times with friends and family during the holidays.
Here are a few steps to help you prepare.
- Ask family and friends to help you plan for scenarios with meal planning. Consider how, when, and where meals and snacks will be served and what you need to do to follow your meal plan for the day.
- It’s okay to ask for something you need. Talk ahead of time to family and friends about what is helpful and what isn’t before, during, and after eating.
- Develop a plan for support after the gathering. Know where your support people are and how you’ll know when it’s time to connect with them.
At a Party or Gathering:
- Try to sit or stand near supportive people.
- Try to eat mindfully and savor these tasty holiday foods.
- Continue to follow your meal plan for the entire day.
- Eat at an appropriate pace.
- Consider keeping a comfort item such as an affirmation card, a picture, or a journal with you throughout the day.
- Talk with loved ones about things unrelated to food, body concerns, and the eating disorder.
- Enjoy your relationships with family and friends and feel gratitude for blessings received.
- Choose someone to call if you are struggling with eating disorder behaviors, negative thoughts, or difficult emotions. Call them ahead of time and let them know of your concerns, needs, and that you may call them during the day.
- Consider asking a loved one to be your “reality check” with food, reminding you of portions, pacing, or your meal plan.
- Get enough sleep and rest.
- Don’t forget about other coping mechanisms (yoga, deep breathing, relaxation imagery, journaling, etc.).
- Choose to move in mindful and moderate ways. This might be a good time for a peaceful leisure walk under the stars with a loved one.
- Spend time with people who love and care about you.
- Challenge yourself to find activities that don’t focus on food (craft fairs, holiday light displays, concerts, charity events, ice skating, snowball fights, making a snow sculpture, etc.). These will help you relax and better enjoy this time of year.
- Discuss your anticipations of the holidays with your treatment team and supportive loved ones so that they can help you predict, prepare for, and get through any uncomfortable family interactions without self-destructive coping attempts.
- Talk with loved ones about important issues: decisions, victories, challenges, fears, concerns, dreams, special moments, spirituality, relationships, and your feelings about them. Allow important themes to be present and allow yourself to have fun (rather than rigidly focusing on food or body thoughts).