Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Healthy Holiday Season During Eating Disorder Recovery

It’s that time of the year again! The holiday season is here. Unfortunately, for those who are overcoming years of disordered eating, the holidays can be a real struggle. Food is often at the forefront of almost every holiday celebration and the bounty of calorie rich foods often trigger a fear of weight gain. As a result, some make a hasty retreat back to their familiar disordered eating behaviors in an attempt to compensate for the food they ate. However, the holiday season does not have to equate to diets and deprivation. In fact, your holiday season can be a healthy holiday season. Here are some how-to’s for a healthy holiday season:

  • Give yourself permission to eat as well as permission to enjoy what you eat. You are a human being and because of this, you have the right to eat and you have the need to eat.
  • Take the judgment out of the food and take yourself off the hook. You are not good or based on what you eat. Your values and the person you are are not affected by the food you just ate.
  • Do not starve yourself before hand in an attempt to save up the day’s allotment of food for the holiday celebration. Doing so may trigger you to overindulge, which may in turn produce feelings of guilt and shame and start a cycle of disordered eating behaviors. Instead, avoid the triggering highs and lows with your hunger level by nourishing yourself with a balance of food throughout the day.
  • Remember that the holiday is usually more of a holiday season versus a one day ordeal. You do not need to overindulge in one sitting because there will be special food around throughout the holiday season.
  • Give yourself permission to eat (as stated above), but don’t rush to eat. Slow down, settle in, and socialize first. Stand more than an arm’s length away from the munchies so that you can focus on the good company and festivities versus the consistent mindless hand to mouth motion.
  • Anticipate some of the possible triggers in advance so that you can have a game plan for how to positively cope when you encounter them. This may mean having a support person available (in person or on the phone) who can help you work through momentary struggles and difficult situations.
  • Before stepping in line to get your food, plan ahead, assess your hunger and fullness level (and/or your meal plan) and evaluate your options. Consider portion size and moderation. Mindfully consider the foods you enjoy. Decide which foods you’ll definitely eat, which ones you will sample, and which ones you will skip.
  • Make a decision and stick with it. Do not play a back and forth game of this is good/bad for me, but this is better for me. The back and forth choices can cause confusion, frustration, anxiety and can trigger the cycle of disordered eating behaviors.
  • Slow down and become mindful while you eat. Enjoy the taste, texture, and smell. Breathe and assess your fullness (and/or your meal plan) while you are eating. It takes at least 20 minutes for fullness cues to arrive and signal us to stop eating. Therefore, instead of heaping your plate full right from the start, moderately fill your plate and remember that you can go back for seconds if you are still hungry.
  • Legalize the holiday yumminess! Deprivation, chronic dieting, cutting back, or labeling food as good or bad can lead to cravings, overeating (or binges), and poor nutrition. When foods are forbidden, they take on a magical quality that is difficult to resist. Research shows that the more you legalize a food, the more in control you will be when eating that particular food. If you try to restrict yourself from all holiday treats, you may be more likely to overindulge at some point. Focus on moderation versus deprivation.
  • If you consume alcohol, be mindful of your intake and the effect that it has on your food inhibitions and mindful eating.
  • Cope with holiday pressure/triggers and stay accountable to your recovery by staying in touch with your personal support system and your treatment providers.
  • Avoid some of the stress and anxiety that can foster a lapse into unhealthy eating behaviors by keeping control of your calendar.

Read more by Sarah Biskobing RD, CD @ RD 4 ED: Nutrition Help for Eating Disorder Recovery.


One Response to “A Healthy Holiday Season During Eating Disorder Recovery”
  1. JB says:

    Great tips, thank you for posting 🙂

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