The Montfort Group

After the Edit, Where Does It All Go?

Did you know that Thanksgiving and Christmas are the peak times for eating disorders? This makes sense when you consider the stressful nature of the holidays, which are often centered around food. Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that have many underlying causes and risk factors. An individual’s risk of developing an eating disorder is further influenced by environmental and cultural factors. 

The holiday season can be an especially challenging time for individuals with eating disorders, as well as for their friends, family members, and loved ones. It is also a time when support from loved ones can make a big difference in recovery. 

Following are some tips for coping with and managing eating disorders during the holidays.

Get Prepared

The stressors associated with the holidays are real and should be taken seriously as they may trigger risky behaviors in those who are prone to disordered eating habits. The first step in managing these behaviors is to prepare ahead of time. This includes:

  • Start the Conversation Early – Start talking about the holidays and the foods, social events, and family dynamics that are associated with them as early as possible. Doing so will help you prepare for the season and better manage your expectations. 
  • Be Prepared for the Unexpected – One of the most challenging aspects of the holiday season is that no two families celebrate in the same way. The food served at family gatherings can be culturally diverse, and family traditions can vary widely. Being prepared for unexpected foods or customs can help you avoid a negative trigger associated with eating during the holidays and may actually open you up to new experiences. 
  • Be Open About Your Struggles – Some individuals keep their eating disorder a secret. If you battle with disordered eating but know that you’re likely to struggle during the holidays, it can be helpful to be honest with loved ones about your challenges and to ask for their support. Honesty has been shown to improve family members’ knowledge and desire to support recovery, as well as their willingness to provide assistance. 

Manage Food Anxieties 

During the holidays, most people report experiencing stress of some kind, but not everyone responds to stress the same way. And with disordered eating, the holidays can trigger extreme food anxieties that can be especially hard to manage.

If you know what triggers your food anxiety during the holidays, you can work to avoid or minimize those triggers and to employ healthier coping mechanisms. One way to help manage stressors is to practice good self-care. Be sure to get yourself in a routine before the holidays – such as going to the gym, or daily walking – that will be easy to maintain come holiday time. You can also add relaxation techniques like yoga, mindfulness, and meditation to ground you and keep you focused. 

Be sure to also choose your social situations carefully. Whether this be with family or with neighbors and friends, social events can sometimes present food choices that are challenging. It’s important to remember, first of all, that you don’t have to attend every family gathering or social invitation you receive. Instead, choose those events where you are more familiar with the people attending or feel comfortable enough to find a quiet corner or safe space if you need to ease into it. Before attending any social gatherings, you can also offset food anxiety by making your own meal at home before going so that you are not more challenged by the food options.

Manage Body Image Concerns

With so much emphasis from media placed on ideal body types and happy-looking people during the holidays, it can be an especially difficult time to manage your own body image issues. That’s why setting yourself up for success ahead of time will be critical.

To that end, make sure you are creating a positive environment around you during the holidays. If you live in a house with other individuals who are also struggling with body image concerns, you may want to avoid the family gatherings where food plays a central role. 

You should also plan time away from others to give yourself space and time to recuperate and to practice self-care. Having a “safe spot” you can go to during gatherings will help you cope in those moments where you may be struggling or feeling overwhelmed.

Just remember: you have the power to make your own rules about what you’re willing to do and not do, so stay true to your beliefs and the goals you have set up for yourself.

Maintain Recovery Practices

With the holidays having so much emphasis on food and family, it’s critical for those working through their eating disorder issues not to let the holidays derail their path to recovery. It can be easy during that time to fall into old traps and habits that are self-harming, but this is where a support network and personal system is so vital to keeping you on track.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Know When to Set Boundaries – Recovery begins with your own acknowledgement of what you need / don’t need in your life to move forward. Therefore, during the holidays, it’s important to understand which people and situations could be potential triggers for you, and to avoid those as much as possible. Try not to give in to the pressure to attend every family event or friend gathering if you know they won’t further your personal goals for recovery. 
  • Find Someone Who Understands You – Some people find that online support groups are helpful. Others find that one-on-one therapy or coaching can be helpful. Still others find that a trusted family member or friend is helpful. Whatever works for you, just be sure you have that support system in place, and that you are able to turn to them as needed during this stressful time.
  • Set Yourself Up to Win – Healthy eating during the holidays is not about avoiding indulging in food or restricting calories. It’s about being mindful of your choices and being able to enjoy holiday foods and activities while also keeping yourself in a place of balance and self-care.

The holidays can be a challenging time for those who struggle with eating disorders. However, by preparing early, understanding the triggers to look out for, and creating safe spaces and environments that support your journey, you can help the holidays become something to enjoy, and not just endure. 

Eating disorders are very serious mental illnesses that can have life-threatening consequences. If you think you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to us. 

Babs Golden

Babs Golden

I’m a mother to 2 radically wonderful teenagers. I’ve traveled the world professionally but have always known Texas was home. I’m a passionate, down to earth organizer, designer and domestic habits coach. I’ve enjoyed a successful career in corporate space planning, product design and trend forecasting. I’ve opened hundreds of specialty retail stores, designed and executed corporate brands, store environments and marketing. I’ve also designed and organized too many custom homes and offices to count. Have I mentioned I love my job?!

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