Castlewood Eating Disorder Treatment Center Blog

12 Tips for Navigating the Holidays in Eating Disorder Recovery

Those who are in eating disorder recovery know full well that the issue is not primarily about food; it’s very often about stress and anxiety. These are the triggers those in recovery have to worry about, and they are sadly common during the holiday season. Indeed, the holidays can be especially difficult for those in eating disorder recovery to navigate—but not impossible. In fact, it is possible to not just survive the holidays but to actually enjoy them. The important thing is to master some basic strategies before the holidays begin in earnest. Here are a dozen tips that may come in handy.
  1. Know your relapse triggers. One of the most important things of all is to identify those factors that are especially difficult for you to cope with—the things most likely to lead you to relapse. If there are certain situations or conversation topics that you find challenging, make sure you know what they are—and be ready to address them or avoid them as needed.
  1. Continue your treatment. Because the holiday season is so busy, it can be tempting to put a pause on your recovery—but don’t! You need it now more than ever! Keep meeting with your dietician and going to therapy just like normal.
  1. Communicate. Let your friends and family members know that the season will be difficult for you; let them know about your specific concerns, and tell them how much you need their encouragement and support.
  1. Set boundaries. In particular, make sure you tell family members the conversation topics that you most need to avoid. Ask them not to be pushy with food or to turn their discussions toward the latest diet trends, etc.
  1. Practice stress management. Whether it’s jogging, yoga, painting, or writing in a journal, make sure you have a stress outlet you can turn to throughout the season.
  1. Have an exit strategy. Rehearse what you’ll say to duck out of a party or holiday gathering a bit early, should you feel it necessary to do so. Your recovery always comes first, even if that means leaving your Holiday dinner before dessert is served, etc.
  1. Let others shoulder your burdens. If you’re the one who typically hosts the family Holiday gathering but you don’t feel up to doing so this year, ask someone else to take it on.
  1. Practice gratitude. Spend some time contemplating the things in your life you’re thankful for—every day.
  1. Follow your meal plan. Don’t depart from your normal eating habits; no skipping breakfast because you plan on a big holiday lunch.
  1. Check in with your hunger and fullness cues. This is especially important when you’re at a holiday party. Be intentional about it!
  1. Give yourself a break. Don’t beat yourself up, even if you make a mistake or have a little lapse. That only makes it harder. Be kind to yourself this holiday season.
  1. Enjoy the holidays. It’s not necessarily easy, and your recovery should always come first—but do try to find the fun in the holidays, and enjoy them as much as you’re able.
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