Don’t let the holidays eat at you.

The holidays are here – a time of joy and celebration, spending time with family and friends and eating a little more than usual. But if you suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating, the holidays can be torture bringing tremendous stress, anxiety, and fear.

Managing anxiety around food can be very hard during the holidays with so many activities revolving around food. Holidays are very much about emotions and about food – two of the things that can trigger eating disorders. Even people who are recovering can hit road bumps during the holidays. photo of Thanksgiving turkey on a platter

While there isn’t a cure for surviving the holidays without returning to unhealthy behaviors, it is possible to enjoy this time of year without allowing eating disorder thoughts to take over. The following tips from the National Eating Disorders Association can help you mentally prepare and deal with your feelings and anxiety:

Have a support system in place: It can be a therapist, a dietitian, family member or friend. If someone who you consider a part of your support system is with you during the holiday, talk with them in advance and let them know, “I need you to have my back.”

Avoid negative body talk: It is all too common to hear things like “the diet starts tomorrow” or “this is going straight to my thighs”. If you’re suffering from an eating disorder, it’s best to avoid this kind of talk. 

If you have a meal plan, follow it:  This doesn’t mean you have to skip dessert or starve yourself all day in advance of the big meal. You can work through Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and still stay on your meal plan. Rely on your care team or a dietitian for help sticking with your plan.

Have a coping plan: Create a plan for what to do when you feel emotionally overwhelmed. Write down your coping plan and keep it handy. Don’t be afraid to take a break. Go for a walk. Write in your journal. This is an important time to practice self-care whenever you begin to anxious.

Focus on gratitude: The holidays are a time to practice gratitude. Thinking of what you’re thankful for can help shift the focus away from food.