Maintaining Recovery During the Holidays
Written by: Alyssa Salz, RD, LD- Staff Dietitian
When most people think of the holiday season, they think of joy, celebrating, gathering with friends and family, and of course, enjoying holiday meals. But for individuals suffering with eating disorders or trying to maintain recovery, the holidays can bring a lot of challenges: worry over the food, what family and friends might say, and much more. This can make the season filled with stress, anxiety, and fear. Trying to imagine a holiday filled with peace and free from worry about what to eat or what not to eat is difficult to do, but trying these tips may help you to maintain your recovery and make the holidays happy and healthy.
- Stick to your meal plan and eat regularly. Keep a regular and moderate pattern. Avoid falling into the trap of restricting; this can lead to overeating and obsessive thoughts about food.
- Eat intuitively. While at a holiday party, focus on eating mindfully and listening to your hunger/fullness cues. Cue in to your inner attunement rather than on external factors regarding what and how much to eat. At holiday parties, make a plate of food rather than grazing at the food table.
- Focus on what the holidays are about. It is a great time to reflect, enjoy relationships, and most importantly to feel thankful for your blessings and to give back to others.
- Keep all of your appointments around the holidays. During this time of high stress and anxiety, it is important to keep your support system close by. Discuss your anticipation with your treatment team so that they can help you predict, prepare for, and get through difficult interactions without self-destructive coping attempts.
- Prepare responses to people who may say something to you that would make you feel uncomfortable. If possible, role playing to prepare for this.Â Have a supportive person on hand to talk to or to call when difficult situations arise. Remember to set boundaries for yourself, discuss what healthy boundaries are with your treatment team if you are unsure.Â Some helpful ideas are to tell people ahead of time that you do not want anyone to comment on your appearance or you eating.
- Be sure to plan some time for yourself to do something you enjoy. It is very important to take special care of yourself during the holidays.
- Focus on being flexible with yourself. Having rigid guidelines and expectations for yourself can take the focus off of enjoying yourself and relaxing with loved ones. Expectations of perfection can put the focus on self-criticism, perfectionism, and doubt. Remind yourself that it is okay to eat what you enjoy and not feel guilty about it and that you deserve to relax and have fun.
- Try to keep stress and outside commitments to a comfortable level. Getting overwhelmed or stressed can lead to emotional feelings of fullness or hunger that can make it difficult to stay on track with the meal plan. Be very selective in the commitments you make.
- And most of allâ€¦ enjoy the holidays! Thatâ€™s what they are all about!
There are very few programs that combine state of the art Anxiety Disorder therapies with comprehensive Eating Disorder treatment. Not only do we provide both at Castlewood, in addition, trauma resolution therapies are blended when applicable. We are able to treat the Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, and any resulting Dissociative Disorders all while helping clients challenge their Eating Disorder beliefs and behaviors.
Castlewood’s Approach to Anxiety Treatment
by Erin McGinty, LPC
At Castlewood, we believe in treating the underlying causes of our clientsâ€™ eating disorders. Many of the clients we treat struggle with anxiety disorders in addition to the significant levels of anxiety they experience around eating disorder-related issues such as food, weight, body image, and so on.
In fact, many of our clients struggled with their anxiety disorders even before the eating disorder appeared; some studies have shown that this is true for as many as two-thirds of people struggling with both of an eating disorder and an anxiety disorder (Kaye et al., 2004).
Clients with anxiety disorders who come to Castlewood typically describe their eating disorder and their anxiety to be intricately linked together. Anxiety is among one of the many contributory factors found to be at the root of eating disorder symptoms, and results in higher degrees of perfectionism, obsessionality, avoidance, and body image dissatisfaction among clients who experience both an eating and anxiety disorder (Kaye et al., 2004). Anxiety is also an emotion that our clients have difficulty regulating without using their eating disorder or self-injury, and therefore becomes a trigger for many self-destructive behaviors.
Clients often have had either treatment exclusively for their eating disorder, or only for their anxiety disorder; many have not had treatment for both simultaneously. Given the identified links between the two disorders, Castlewoodâ€™s treatment philosophy is that both disorders need to be treated at the same time in order to give clients the best chance at long-lasting recovery.
Castlewood utilizes exposure and response prevention therapy, a specific type of cognitive-behavioral therapy, to treat anxiety disorders. Clients are asked to identify anxiety-provoking situations that they typically avoid altogether or have difficulty tolerating without using ritual or harmful behaviors. We then gradually and repetitively expose clients to these situations, while requesting that they not engage in ritual behaviors to cope with the anxiety or fear that they experience. With this consistent exposure to feared situations, clients allow themselves to see that what they fear will happen in a given situation will not actually occur, and as a result their anxiety about a previously feared situation reduces naturally.
In conjunction with exposure and response prevention therapy, Castlewood also utilizes other cognitive and behavioral therapies in the treatment of anxiety disorders that allows us to challenge belief systems that maintain fears and ritual behaviors, as well as to provide clients with alternative skills to help them in managing their anxiety.
Kaye, W.H., Bulik, C.M., Thornton, L., Barbarich, N., Masters, K. & Price Foundation Collaborative Group (2004).
Comorbidity of anxiety disorders with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161 (12),
To learn more about how Social Anxiety Disorder impacts Eating Disorder go to :Â Social Anxiety Article.