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Maintaining Recovery During the Holidays

Written by Alyssa Salz, MS, RD, LD

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 the positive aspects of the holidays. 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. Discuss your anticipatory anxieties and fear with your treatment team so that they can help you predict, prepare for, and get through difficult interactions without self-destructive coping strategies.
  • Prepare responses to people who may say something to you that would make you feel uncomfortable. If possible, role-play to prepare for this. 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 look like with your treatment team if you are unsure. 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 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 all enjoy the holidays! That’s what they are all about!
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