Eating Disorders During the Holidays.

The holidays can be a very difficult time for many people. It can be a sad occasion due to loss or loneliness, it can be stressful due to family feuds and it can be tricky in regards to our mental health. This is especially true for those of us who suffer from eating disorders.

The holidays can be a very difficult time for many people. It can be a sad occasion due to loss or loneliness, it can be stressful due to family feuds and it can be tricky in regards to our mental health. This is especially true for those of us who suffer from eating disorders.

Although a ‘season of joy‘ for many, coping with a very food-focused holiday like Christmas can feel more like hell than joy on earth. Food can easily become the main focus of every situation, which can leave us feeling smothered by the calories we’re expected to consume.

With that in mind, is it possible to get through the holidays in one piece?

8 Ways to Cope with an Eating Disorder During The Holidays.

1. Set clear boundaries.

The holidays are usually a time filled with work-dos, family gatherings and spending time with loved ones. You can’t attend everything, and that’s perfectly fine. Just like you can’t please everyone, which is also perfectly fine (and entirely not your fault).

NO is not a dirty word. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by a situation, then you have the right to politely decline or excuse yourself.

Pop-out for a walk, spend time with your dog/cat, take a breather with some Netflix, or even go for a nap. Self-care is so important during the holidays in general, but especially when you’re surrounded by potential triggers.

2. Take some time to yourself.

During the holidays we’re expected to be present both physically and mentally. Depending on the kind of set up you have, this can be easier said than done.

If you find spending time with people, especially family, overwhelming, then it’s a good idea to schedule some ‘me’ time. Pop off during the downtime and read a book or play some video games. If you’re fit and able you could even do some yoga.

3. Plan distractions.

Bring Me To Light by Eleanor Segall.

From my experience, it’s always best to have a planned distraction following the traditional holiday feast. This can be in the form of colouring, reading a good book or even partaking in the annual Monopoly minefield.

Make sure you have something in mind prior to walking into the situation but don’t be afraid to change it up a bit if prompted. Maybe Monopoly isn’t your thing, maybe you’re more into Total Rickall?

I suggest ‘Bring Me To Light’ as one of your go-to books this holiday season.

4. Have an ’emergency contact’.

Not everyone can be there for you during the holiday period. We all have our own lives and families to attend to. If you can possibly manage it make prior arrangements with a friend, a partner or even a family member to be there just in case.

For example, I know I can always rely on my partner to help out of a bad situation, whether the threat is real or fabricated. Last year he even attended our family dinner. He was able to be there for not only me but everyone while we navigated what would be our last Christmas as a family.

Even during the holidays, BEAT is on hand to answer any distress calls. Helplines will be open between 4pm – 8pm from December 24th 2019 until January 1st 2020.

5. Be kind to yourself (and others).

This shouldn’t need much explanation. Be nice, be kind and be mindful of others during the holidays. For some, this could be the first year without a loved one or perhaps they’re lonely and have no one to turn to. No matter where you are, at work or at home, be kind.

How can we mention kindness without also thinking of ourselves!? Impossible! The kindness you put out into the world needs to also be displayed in how we treat ourselves.

Allow yourself to feel overwhelmed, but deal with it appropriately. If you’re feeling scared or anxious, talk about it but don’t act on it negatively. Communication, vulnerability, and honesty are your best friends right now. Use them.

6. Let go of expectations and detrimental thinking, even just for one day.

I always expect big events like Christmas, Halloween and the new year to be perfect. Where these expectations come from, I’m not sure, but I know that I’m always left feeling sorely disappointed. The truth is nothing can be perfect and we need to let go of that expectation.

Equally, we need to let go of the expectation we hold for ourselves. It’s okay to eat a little bit more than usual, it’s okay to get up at nine instead of six A.M. Challenge the negative thinking patterns that are telling you that it’s not, and tell them exactly why it is!

Eating Disorders ruin our lives for the majority of the year, don’t let it ruin the downtime you have with your friends and family.

7. It’s going to be challenging.

The holidays are always going to hold some sort of dread because it’s largely about eating and being in the company of others. To expect it to be easy is setting yourself up for failure.

Be aware of the fact that you’re going to be challenged more than normal. You’re going to have to fight (and fight hard) against your internal critic. Be mindful but don’t allow it to ruin the season. If we can identify the triggers and do our best to either avoid them or safely challenge them, then it makes the experience that bit easier.

8. Stick to the plan.

No matter what goes down, if your meal plan says ‘Eat 6 times a day‘, stick to it. I appreciate that routines become mixed up over the holidays, but attempt to stick to the plan as much as possible to prevent major disruption.

This doesn’t stop with meal plans. It also includes waking/sleeping times and trying to maintain consistency throughout. Of course, a lie-in or a late-night is warranted but try and keep it as similar to your normal routine as possible.

When we step outside normality it can be overwhelming and cause unnecessary distress. This is especially true where food or mealtimes are concerned.


I personally find the holidays to be very difficult not only in terms of food but family dynamics. This year, after the passing of both my grandfather and grandmother, I’m preparing for the fact that Christmas will never be the same again. The added sadness will no doubt impact on how I manage food, however, with correct support from my partner, I’m hoping I’ll come out unscathed.

Have you any other tips for coping with the holidays?

91 comments

  1. This is such a helpful post. I’d never really stopped to think about Christmas from the POV of someone with an eating disorder but you’re right, planning distractions, having an emergency contact, and being able to say No are really good tips.

  2. This is great post, yes eating disorders are really difficult situtaions. Especially during holiday seasons.

  3. Couldn’t agree more on this post. Definitely a great read especially for those having some difficulties especially on holiday season with their eating habits.

  4. I usually go pretty crazy during the holidays. I started this month with a diet thought to help me stay healthier.

  5. You’ve got some really great advice here. I can only imagine how hard this can be for those with eating disorders.

  6. A topic that should be spoken of more often. This holiday season any disorder can be tripled due to all of our situation with social distancing. Love all of your tips and hope your post reaches more people.

  7. Thank you for writing about such a sensitive topic. The holidays can be tough for people with eating disorders.

  8. I’m definitely struggling right now with my eating, but I’m also trying to give myself a little bit of grace. These are such great tips friend. Stay safe this season.

  9. It can be so difficult to manage during the holidays with an eating disorder especially since the focus is on food and friends. You are right, planning ahead is a great way to cope.

  10. I didn’t know this is such a thing. I need to watch my eating habit now specially this Holiday season. Thank you for these great lists, I’ll keep it in mind.

  11. I think the number affected by this is greater than we may even know. It is important o have time to yourself and also plan distractions.

  12. Gladly that I am not struggling about eating disorder but there are great tips and definitely help those people who are in this situation.

  13. I have battled with slight eating disorders in the past and it’s still incredibly hard to be “okay” with eating sometimes. The holidays are especially hard with the focus being food (and you’re dressed up and literally feeling every calorie).

  14. These seem like wonderful tips to help people who have an eating disorder or know someone with it help navigate the holidays.

  15. This is the first holiday season that I have experienced neurosis around food and I’m finding myself having “binge” episodes and feeling extremely low after. Thanks for sharing this post – I’m sure it will help a lot of people.

  16. The holidays can be tough in the best of times. Good on you for having a solid plan. Self care and not being afraid to say no are very important.

  17. Eating disorders are difficult any time of the year but the holidays are worse. Seeing all the family you don’t see on a regular basis and having them comment on what you do or don’t eat is a struggle.

  18. Thank you for talking about this topic. During this season I have been having problems with my eating. I hope to get back into better eating habits next year.

  19. Thank you so much for reading, Spence. I’m so glad this post is informative and able to help so many people. I had no idea if the advice I was giving was enough or even correct. It’s a very difficult time of year for me, not just due to the issues with food, but also long family trauma as well. I manage it as best I can but hate it every year.

    This year I’m setting boundaries, despite the thoughts of my family.

    Have a peaceful Christmas and New Year.
    Nyxie.

  20. This will be very helpful to those who struggle with eating disorders. Thank you for the article.

  21. This is such a great guide. Thank you for sharing. I vividly remember the days when I used to struggle through the normal days let alone the holidays

  22. Eating disorders are underlooked, especially during the holiday season. Having someone to keep you in check and support you is very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Sorry to hear you’re not feeling it this year, it’s always so hard to get into the festive spirit when you’ve had a crappy time. Sending you lots of love xxx

  24. This are such great tips, i can imagine how difficult this season can be for some people but in my own case, am actually looking for something that will stimulate my appetite for for the season and things can go back the way they are after. You dont know how difficult it is sometimes to make foods that you can even eat.

  25. Hi Chloe,
    What a fantastic post! This is a fabulously wise list for absolutely anyone. It really conveys a sense of permission to engage in selfcare. That we are all allowed to pull back from the coca cola-esque “holidays are coming” fantasy of all is merry and bright. Part is the general belief is that you can live to excess at this time of year, but that can obviously lead us dowrn a road of decreased physical and mental health. It really is okay to look after ourselves and remember the things that keep afloat the other 51 weeks of the year.
    Peace and love,
    Spence ????

  26. This would be tough, that’s for sure. I’ve never dealt with it, but I know many who have. I try to always be supportive. I think it’s wonderful that you write about it to let those people know they are not alone.

  27. I am very aware of these. Can see it with many friends and relatives. It is nice you raised this.

  28. I can’t even get into the spirit of things. I have nothing done. The tree is only up yesterday and my gifts are all last minutes because I genuinely don’t care this year. Which is awful. Our nieces are the only ones we’ve put thought into if I’m honest.
    Thank you so much for popping in and reading.

  29. It’s nice that you are sharing ways to cope. I love the contingency of having a backup person to call.

  30. These are some fantastic tips – I especially like the one about letting go of the expectations for the day and not letting your disorder ruin your Christmas. My OCD is particularly bad this time of year and it’s so hard not to let it stop you from enjoying yourself. I feel it’s so important to say no to stuff too – there’s always so much pressure that you need to go to stuff ‘because it’s Christmas’ but you know your own limits and if it’s going to be too much for you there’s no shame in saying no! X

  31. Super important topic.! Eating disorders are so difficult o handle and the holiday season doesn’t help.

  32. This post is perfect for this time of the year. I would try to distract myself to eschew eating disorder in the Christmas holidays.

  33. The holiday season is beautiful but it’s also a time of deep feelings. It can trigger anxiety, eating disorders or mental health problems. It’s important to understand that there are things that we can do to take control of the situation. Thanks for this informative post.

  34. I can imagine that if you are suffering from an eating disorder, Christmas time can be very difficult. Your advice is very useful, I think calling someone is always so helpful.

  35. It is such an important post! I strongly believe eating disorders are very hard to handle and holiday season definitely adds up too much

  36. Very well written post and great tips for everyone to use!! I use alot of these daily to help manage my mental health. I still dont have a healthy relationship with food but this is great advice!! Xx

  37. Thank you so much for reading. I’m hoping to update this next year with more information after I get over this festive season (& have notes to go off). But I’m glad that the current information was able to offer some help to people.

  38. Great additional advice, pet! I meant to include the routines but I thought I had covered it in another section in this post? Possibly not, though. It’s been so long since I actually researched and wrote this. I will be updating this next year with more tips, so will ensure I add it in then or make it more clear.

    I also miss the Dr Who special! I used to live for that!

    I would love to get ornaments etc to remember passed loved ones, but I think a lot of my family are still feeling quite raw from it. It’s understandable, but I can’t even bring them up without my family crying and telling me not to talk about them.

    Thank you for reading and commenting pet. xx

  39. Thank you so much for reading and I’m so glad it was helpful. Having someone to call or contact in case of a meltdown emergency is so important. I have my partner, but even then it can be difficult when he doesn’t quite understand the family dynamic.

  40. It can be super hard but don’t give up. The holidays are always difficult in regards to many things, not just health. It might be an idea to cut yourself some slack during this time of the year in all areas, and pick up again once the season is over.

    Be kind to yourself and listen to what you want and need. Christmas is a time of kindness, and that includes to ourselves.

  41. Thank you so much for reading. They can be interchangeable and don’t just apply to eating disorders, but any disorder both physical or mental.

  42. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. I’m hoping this will be able to help a number of people with Christmas this year.

  43. Sometimes, even with a plan like this, it can fall through. Family or the people you’re with for Xmas can either make or break you, with or without boundaries in place. Just remember to be careful and respect your own needs.

    Thank you so much for reading.

  44. Thank you so much for reading. More people need to understand that NO isn’t necessarily a personal attack, it’s simply boundaries.

  45. Thank you so much for taking the time to read. I hope it’s helped you understand a little bit more as I understand it can be difficult.

  46. A close family member of mine suffers a eating disorder. Thanks for sharing this with me, as a food blogger and lover of food…. it can be hard for me to understand but your article has helped!

  47. These are great tips for anyone who is struggling from an eating disorder. Thank you for sharing these with us. I’m sure it will really help people in need.

  48. All of these are perfect strategies to keep yourself healthy in a difficult season. You are a healthy strong woman!

  49. These are great tips! While I don’t struggle from an eating disorder, I eat very mindfully since I have Type 1 Diabetes. Most of these tips still work well for this disease!

  50. I’m trying to navigate eating healthier and I’m struggling right now. There are so many goodies around and I LOVE sweets. I’m trying to be gentle with myself right now but I’m also struggling against my want to just give my goals up. It’s so hard.

  51. The holidays can definitely cause a lot of issues when it comes to mental health, and more so when family time isn’t exactly all fun and joy. Stress is definitely a big negative factor and can cause detrimental downfalls to our wellbeing. I love this list of ways to cope with eating disorders during the holidays. I never really thought to have someone to call in case of emergency, that’s pretty smart. It’s always good to have someone to reach out to when we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Great points to prevent escalation!

  52. Yes to all of this. I’d add that it helps if the family takes the focus away from the big meal – I’m hoping this year to get to be on baby cuddling duty while the parents eat again so I’m not being watched and under too much pressure when eating. Although last year I only swung that because serious dental issues had me on fluids only.

    Creating routines can help as well – as I’ve discussed with you. Just because family members have died doesn’t mean that remembering them can’t become a part of the Christmas celebration – whether on the run up to the big day or on the day itself. In the same way that I buy special ornaments for the new babes in the family, maybe you’d like ornaments for the ones that have passed on to hang on the tree in remembrance?

    I miss the Dr Who christmas special bc that used to give me an hour in a room to myself to watch it because it was too scary for the kids.

    One thing I do love about Christmas is that it gives my brain certain loopholes when it comes to food – such as having cheese and cold meats for breakfast.
    Although I’d also add that it’s okay for it to not be the right time to push yourself to a fear food when there is a big audience and lots of expectations around happiness. You can always save the fear food for another, quieter, day – as long as you are sticking to any prescribed meal plans with safe foods.

    Take care of yourself over the holidays lovey – I’ll either drop you my skype or my number in case you need some additional moral support bc I’m not going to be checking social media as much but there will still always be time and a space for you <3

  53. Christmas can be such a minefield where eating disorders are concerned. Letting go of those expectations and detrimental thoughts isn’t easy but I think trying to gear up for that in advance is a good idea, try to get a little more flexible on the run-up to Christmas. And absolutely, kindness is a must, as is taking care of ourselves and giving ourselves some slack. Distractions can help with that a little too. Fantastic tips  ♥
    Caz xx

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