Surviving the Holidays, Part 1: Eating Disorders

The holidays are supposed to be a time of happiness, when families get together to celebrate. However, for people suffering from a mental illness, the holidays can be full of stress, temptation and anxiety as they try to deal with their specific issues.

Life Works has compiled a list of holiday tips to help those who may be suffering enjoy the holiday season.  This series has four sections: eating disorders, depression, alcohol and drugs. Use the following these tips to help yourself or someone you love get through season without regret or relapse. 

 Surviving the Holidays, Part 1: Eating Disorders

This is the 1st part of a series on surviving the holidays for those suffering from addiction, eating disorders and other mental health issues.


Most people look forward to the big holiday meals this time of year but for someone with an eating disorder this can be incredibly daunting. The presence of that much food can be a trigger, a temptation and may make some EDs feel out of control. To counteract this, there are five steps that will make the holiday manageable.

Step 1 – Plan ahead

If someone with an eating disorder sits down to a huge meal without some forethought they can feel serious regret or shame but if they plan out what they are going to eat there is less guilt attached. Just knowing that you have a plan for what you will eat can remove a lot of anxiety leading up to the meal. It is also important to remember that the plan should not stop after the big meal. Plan to eat a normal and healthy meal the next day as well. That way there is less chance of slipping into food restrictions or other ED behaviours.

Another portion of the plan should be to have a family member or friend at the festivities that knows the plan. By speaking to them before the meal, an ED can discuss their plan and agree upon a signal if they feel they need to chat in private during the meal. These chats can simply be a chance to get away, take a breath and regroup. 

Step 2 – Be mindful

By living in the moment and keeping an eye on emotions, people with eating disorders can enjoy the holiday. This also helps people with EDs understand that a little bit of overeating during a holiday is ok rather than something to agonise over. 

Expert Tip – Dr Hannan, GP

Plan for next year be more successful than your last.

Step 3 – Breathe

Taking a few deep breaths can relieve anxiety and help manage stress. If that is not enough, try some quiet meditation away from the hustle and bustle.

Step 4 – Keep laughing

Just like deep breathing, laughter can reduce stress and stress hormones. It also feels good and joining in a good laugh with family and friends is always a great thing to be a part of.

Step 5 – Remember that no one is perfect

Nothing will go exactly as planned and no one will be able to do exactly what they plan to do. Keeping that in mind helps manage anxiety and expectations.

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<strong>Expert Tip – Jennifer Smith, Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapist</strong>
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<p>Work or do some volunteering – Boost your self-esteem by feeling a sense of accomplishment and productivity. This will boost your self-esteem and reinforce your recovery.</p>


Surviving the Holidays, Part 2: Depression
Changing Drug use in the UK