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By Keeley Seymour, LCSW, CEDS
3 min read
The holiday season, while often associated with joy and celebration, can pose unique challenges for many, including those on the journey of eating disorder recovery. Navigating social gatherings, festive meals, and the emphasis on indulgence can be triggering for individuals with a history of disordered eating. However, it’s crucial to recognize that eating disorder recovery is a highly individualized process, and finding what works best for you may not be the same as what works for another.
Eating disorders manifest in various forms and with a range of symptoms. They are generally caused by a mix of biological, environmental and psychological factors. Each person’s recovery journey is shaped by their unique experiences, triggers, and coping mechanisms. It’s essential to acknowledge that recovery is not a linear path; setbacks may occur, but they don’t negate the progress made.
Tips for Managing Eating Disorder Recovery During the Holidays:
- Communication is Key:
Openly communicate with friends and family about your needs and boundaries during holiday gatherings. Educate them about your recovery journey to foster understanding and support. It is also OK to set limits around conversation topics at the party or dinner table.
- Plan Ahead:
Anticipate challenging situations and plan strategies to cope with them. This might include having a support person, setting time limits for social events, or identifying safe spaces to retreat if needed.
- Mindful Eating:
Practice mindful eating during holiday meals. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues, savor each bite, and focus on the social aspects of the gathering rather than fixating on the food. Sometimes holiday gatherings create anxiety about the amount of food served. Remember to eat reguarly throughout the day and nourish yourself, despite how much food is served or consumed at the gathering.
- Build a Support System:
Surround yourself with a supportive network, whether it’s friends, family, or a therapist. Having people who understand your journey can provide encouragement and help you navigate challenges.
Be kind to yourself. Understand that recovery is a process, and setbacks don’t define your progress. If you find the holidays challenging, practice self-compassion and acknowledge the effort you’re putting into your recovery.
- Use coping skills:
Engage in activities that promote well-being, such as gentle exercise, meditation, art or journaling. Practicing coping skills throughout the holidays can help with staying grounded.
- Limit Social Media Use:
Limit the amount of time you spend on social media over the holidays. Oftentimes people post the highlights of their lives and do not share the struggles, which can have an impact on how you view yourself if you are having a challenging time. Spend time with more authentic connections that can show vulnerability as well.
- Professional Support:
If you have a therapist or counselor, maintain regular contact during the holiday season. Discuss any concerns, triggers, or challenges you anticipate, and work together to develop coping strategies.
The National Alliance for Eating Disorders is also always a good resource. They have a free therapist-led hotline to help connect those in need to care. They also have free weekly therapist-led support groups, which allows community members to receive support and connect with others who have walked in similar paths. https://www.allianceforeatingdisorders.com/
Managing eating disorder recovery during the holidays is a nuanced process that requires reflection, communication, and personalized strategies. Recognizing that recovery looks different for everyone is essential, as it allows individuals to tailor their approach to their unique needs and circumstances. By incorporating these tips and embracing a flexible mindset, individuals can navigate the holiday season while prioritizing their well-being and sustaining their progress in eating disorder recovery. Also as a reminder, if you are struggling, we see you, and you are not alone. Reach out to someone for support.
Evolve Counseling Services is a specialized team of Licensed Therapists providing treatment in Paoli, Pennsylvania.