Eating Disorder Struggles during the Holiday Season

Eating Disorders Struggles during the Holiday Season

TW: Eating Disorders 

The winter months may be the most joyous and wonderful times of the year. For many of us, the holidays are a time for celebration, family, friends, traditions, love, sparkling decorations, special outings, cozy pajamas, warm drinks, and classic movies. For others, the holiday season provokes an immense amount of dread, fear, and anxiety. 

In addition to these festivities, a significant part of the holidays is centered around food, no matter the occasion. And for people with eating disorders, the holidays may not be so pleasurable and worry-free. 

A few years ago, I remember a Thanksgiving I had with my extended family at my aunt’s house. That day, I tried not to eat anything in order to compensate for the calories I knew I was going to eat that night. From the brie cheese appetizer to bread rolls, and the pumpkin pie, I completely lost control of my appetite and binged everything in sight. In consequence, towards the end of the evening, I was nearly in tears begging my mom to drive me home so that I could try and dispose of what I regretfully consumed. Once home, I failed to purge. Instead, I decided to stay up late and not let myself sleep until I burned everything off...I ran four miles on the treadmill.

Oftentimes, in preparation for a big meal with family and friends, people who have eating disorders will increase their exercise or limit their caloric intake. These prior restrictions and precautions may do more harm than good, as they likely will lead to a binge episode. My advice: do not do what I did. My binge and purge session only exacerbated my disorder and heightened my anxiety that accompanies the holidays. 

Due to the emphasis on food throughout the season, the true meanings of the holidays seem to get lost in translation, between the hot cocoa and candy canes. However, food is only a fraction of what the holiday season is really about. Instead of food, focus on the bigger picture and all the other things you love about the season. From spending time with your loved ones, adventuring to gaze at colorful lights, building snowpeople, giving back to your community, and watching your favorite movies, there are endless possibilities and memories that are yet to be made. 

If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are anxious about the holidays, here are a list of suggestions to minimize relapsing: 

1. On the day of your big family dinner or gathering, treat it like any normal day of eating. This will help decrease the chance of binging.

2. If you are worried about being uncomfortable at the table, reach out to a close friend or family member in advance. Let them know to check in on you and keep you company throughout the night!

3. Eat the damn piece of pie, cupcake, or gingerbread cookie! The holidays are a time of indulgence and most people tend to treat themselves. Everything is okay in moderation!

4. Make a plan of what you are going to do after the meal so you have something else to look forward to throughout the night.

5. Try not to think about the number of calories. The holidays only come once a year! No need to do math.

6. If you do binge or purge, keep your head up and get back on track. Try to resume normal eating habits and exercise regime as soon as possible. 

The holiday season can be extremely stressful and triggering for those of us with eating disorders. Now more than ever, it is essential to do whatever you need to do to make yourself more comfortable and maintain your health. 

Are you struggling with an eating disorder? Do you know someone struggling? Visit for more information. 

Written by: Jessica Norris

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