Surviving the Holidays with an Eating Disorder

November 21, 2018 by Sarah Voegtle

With the hustle bustle of the holiday season, it is very easy for anyone to get stressed out and overwhelmed.  For someone with an eating disorder, this stress can be amplified with the gathering of people for holiday get-togethers and parties that are celebrated with food and eating.  It’s important that people with eating disorders and their families prepare themselves for the holiday season in order to reduce stress and discomfort.  Below are some helpful tips that may ease the distress of the holiday season.


  • Plan, Plan, Plan– Speak with your family and friends to see what the food spread might be at the get together. Come up with a meal plan that includes all food groups in order to leave you satisfied but not filled with regret after the event. Try to avoid anything that may trigger negative self-talk or urges to engage in disordered eating behaviors. If you are traveling, plan the snacks that you will take with you in order to keep your body nourished.
  • You CAN do it! The holidays are stressful but you really can do this. Challenge negative or irrational self-talk during this holiday season. Practice positive self-affirmation daily and fill your day with positive music and company. Remember to focus on facts, not irrational or unrealistic thinking.
  • Set Boundaries– Remember, you don’t have to attend every event or get together that your invited to. Choose a few that you will feel most comfortable at both with the food but also the company. If you have family or friends that you think may make a comment to you that is uncomfortable either about your body or eating, reduce your contact with them.
  • Variety is the Spice of Life– There are no “good” or “bad” foods. During the holiday season we often consume foods that we may not during other times during the year, that’s okay! Food is not the enemy, it is fuel for a living body! Allowing yourself to be more flexible with the kinds of food you eat will help you live a fuller and more freeing life. Plus, our bodies love being nourished by all different kinds of foods.
  • Breathe– You may have anxiety during this holiday season. Come up with healthy ways to cope with that anxiety. Make a list so that when you’re feeling anxiety you don’t have to think about it, but you can go right to that list and choose something. There are also great smartphone applications, such as Calm or Headspace, that offer wonderful guided meditations to help reduce stress and worry.  Don’t forget to plan some restorative time for yourself, as well, to decompress from the holidays.
  • Listen to your Body– During this holiday season try to focus on mindfulness. Focus on the flavors, smells, and sounds around you. Allow yourself to fully listen to your body when it’s hungry and when it’s full. Being mindful of any urges or emotions you are feeling and make sure to seek support when needed.

Above all else, the holidays are supposed to be a time for joy. Be kind and forgiving to yourself, as you would any other person that you care about. Embrace where you are in your recovery and always show yourself grace.

Sarah Voegtle, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN is a registered dietitian specializing in the treatment of eating disorders and sports nutrition. Sarah enjoys empowering her clients to improve their overall health through nutrition. 

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