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The Unwelcomed Holiday Guest

Family, Eating Disorder, Holidays, Christmas, NYE

Is there a time of year that is more food focused than the November/December holiday season? The amount of food and diet talk that pops up around the holidays rivals only that of the beginning of summer frenzied diet-focused talk. We are all aware of the increase in food-talk during the holidays, but for someone who trying to navigate the tricky road of eating disorder recovery, this time of year can add another layer of stress. While this may be the most wonderful time of year for some – not everyone is filled with joy.

What if you are struggling with an eating disorder?

If you are a person with an eating disorder in this holiday season the best thing you can do is consult with your treatment team. Talk to your RDN about the food challenges that the holiday season presents and how to navigate them and/or incorporate them into your current treatment plan. Talk to your therapist about how these challenges impact your mental health. The added pressure of congregating with large groups to engage in food-focused activities can be very anxiety provoking for someone with an eating disorder. Discussing these challenges before the holiday and processing them after can be a great way to work through some of the more difficult aspects of the holiday season and your eating disorder.

What if you know someone struggling with an eating disorder?

For those of us who are the family and friends, it can be hard to watch someone you love suffer. Below are some suggestions of how to help your loved one navigate the holiday season. These points were adapted from a survey conducted by the Center For Change using a population of women with eating disorders ages 14 through 44 (Hardman & Berrett, 2014). Decrease the focus on the food. Some encouragement is okay when your loved one is eating. A good rule to go by is to shift the focus from the food and on to the other celebratory aspects of the holiday.

  1. Support your loved one in whatever way that means for them.

  2. Make a plan with him or her before the holiday to set everyone up to feel successful.

  3. Come up with activities or outings that the individual with an eating disorder can participate in that are not food-focused.

  4. Be aware of potential triggers, anxieties, and behaviors. If it is necessary to address any disordered behaviors do it in a private and patient way. Try to make your loved one feel respected and supported.

  5. Keep the focus on the love and joy that this holiday season is supposed to focus on. Do not the food or diet talk that often takes over.

Always treat your loved one with the love and respect he or she deserves. A person is not their eating disorder. If you need guidance on how to navigate the holidays with an eating disorder, please call us today at 832-421-8714 .

References Hardman, R. K. & Berrett, M. E. (2014, July).  Coping with a loved ones’ eating disorder during the holidays [Blog post]. Retrieved from


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