Surviving the Holiday Season with ED

Christine Hanwick

It’s official. The holiday season is here. And for many it’s filled with cheer and nostalgia. But for those with an eating disorder, or recovering from an eating disorder, the holidays can be stressful and anxiety-riddled. In fact, Dr. Rosa Gomez de Jesus, of the Miami Children’s Hospital, says the patients she sees with eating disorders generally increase from just one to two, to eight or more during the holidays. And psychologist, Ashley Solomon says, the holidays can be a telling time for friends and family members to notice if a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder.


If you are in recovery, or have a family member or friend in recovery, I’ve listed coping tips for the holidays from professionals below. In addition, I’ve added signs to look for this holiday season if you feel a family member or friend might be struggling silently with an eating disorder.


Suggestions if you are in recovery:

–    Choose a family or friend support “buddy” that you can talk to about your feelings and let  them know you might need their support.

–    Find an activity to get your mind off food — Maybe a puzzle or taking care of little ones at the party.

–    Try to give yourself a break for a day — treat yourself extra gentle, like you would want to treat your dearest friend.

–    Don’t set yourself up for failure. Give yourself a pep talk before a family or friend get together and remind yourself it’s ok if things do not go according to plan.

–    Make more positive affirmations about yourself and recovery during this time. Post-its with self-love on the bathroom mirror can be effective.

–    Know that if you relapse, every single second is another chance to start fresh.

–    Journal about your feelings.

Suggestions if your friend or family member is in recovery:

–    Let them know that you are there to support them, unconditionally.

–    Be kind — practice more compassion (for yourself and others).

–    Be aware of how you talk about your body or your own eating habits.

–    Stay away from comments about weight or how much or little people are eating.

What to look for if you’re a concerned friend or family member:

–    are they more anxious than usual?

–   are they eating less than normal? Or are they eating (a lot) more than usual?

–    are they overly picky? Or do they prepare their own food or rearrange their food to make it look as if more was eaten?

–    are they not wanting to eat with family?

–    are they over-exercising or obsessed with food?


Holidays can be hard for many even if they aren’t struggling with an eating disorder. But if you know someone who is, send them a little extra love during this time. And if you’re still struggling, be kind to yourself. You are perfect the way you are in every moment and things will get easier. Eventually you won’t just be trying to survive the holidays, but you’ll be enjoying them again.


Do you have your own tips? If so, please post them!