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The Holidays & Eating Disorders: How to Stay Happy & Healthy This Holiday Season

It may be hard to believe, but another holiday season is just around the corner and it’s time to think about what challenges you may face this year.  The holidays can be especially difficult for those who are suffering from an eating disorder.  The numerous holiday gatherings that start with Thanksgiving and don’t stop until New Years are often centered around food, making the next few months challenging for someone who is trying to maintain healthy eating habits.

Having an uneven eating schedule or feeling pressured to eat a certain way around friends and family is often compounded by the stress of having a busy work and social schedule and not enough rest.  Being prepared before the holidays begin and having a plan for action is the best way to ensure that you enjoy a peaceful, healthy season.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), there are steps that those who have an eating disorder can take to reduce unhealthy stress levels that are common during the holidays.   One key recommendation from the NEDA is to discuss your concerns ahead of time with your therapist or treatment team in order to develop a plan for managing potentially stressful situations that could trigger unhealthy behavior.  Most plans include having a “buddy” who can be called in case you become overwhelmed and just need someone to talk to, and a plan for dealing with family situations and other social gatherings.

Understanding what kinds of challenges you may face when you have an eating disorder is the best way to be prepared to face the holidays.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed, but with some preparation and a plan of action in case of trouble, you can learn to start enjoying the holidays again.  Start by making a list of your fears or concerns and talking with your treatment team or someone you trust about how you will cope.  By being prepared, you can handle everything that the holiday season throws your way.