Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

12 Ideas to Help Those With Eating Disorders Negotiate the Holidays

By Michael E. Berrett, PhD

Psychologist, CEO, and Executive Director

Center for Change

  1. Eat regularly and in some kind of reasonable pattern. Avoid “preparing for the last supper.” Don’t skip meals and starve in an attempt to make up for what you recently ate or are about to eat. Keep a regular and moderate pattern.
  2. Worry more about the size of your heart than the size of your hips! It is the holiday season, a great time to reflect, enjoy relationships with loved ones, and most importantly, a time to feel gratitude for blessings received and to give back through loving service to others.
  3. Discuss your anticipation of the holidays with your therapist, physician, dietitian, or other members of your treatment team so that they can help you predict, prepare for, and get through any uncomfortable family interactions without self-destructive coping attempts.
  4. Have a well-thought-out game plan before you go home or invite others into your home. Know “where the exits are,” where your support people are, and how you’ll recognize when it’s time to make a quick exit and get connected with needed support.
  5. Talk with loved ones about important issues: decisions, victories, challenges, fears, concerns, dreams, goals, special moments, spirituality, relationships and your feelings about them. Allow important themes to be present. Allow yourself to have fun rather than rigidly focusing on food or body concerns.
  6. Think of someone to call if you are struggling with addictive behaviors, or with negative thoughts or difficult emotions. Alert them ahead of time; let them know of your concerns, needs, and the possibility of you calling them for emotional support.
  7. Consider choosing one loved one to be your “reality check” with food, to either help fix a plate for you or to give you sound feedback on the food portion sizes you make for yourself.
  8. Write down your vision of where you would like your mind and heart to be during this holiday time with loved ones. Take time, several times per day, to find a quiet place to get in tune with your vision, to remember, to nurture, and to center yourself in the thoughts, feelings, and actions that match your vision for yourself.
  9. Focus your personal goals for your time with loved ones during the holidays. Make them about “doing something”rather than about trying to prevent something. It’s fine to have food goals, but make sure you add personal,emotional, spiritual, and relationship goals as well.
  10. Work on being flexible in your thoughts. Learn to be flexible when setting guidelines for yourself and expectations of yourself and others. Strive to be flexible in what you can eat during the holidays. Take a holiday from self-imposed criticism, rigidity, and perfectionism.
  11. Stay active in your support group, or join one if you are not currently involved. Many support groups can be helpful:12-step groups, co-dependency groups, eating disorder therapy groups, book clubs, neighborhood game groups, and religious or spiritually oriented groups are examples of groups that may give real support. Isolation and withdrawal from positive support are not the way to get through trying times.
  12. Avoid “overstressing” and “overbooking” yourself. A lower sense of stress can decrease the perceived need to turn to eating-disordered behaviors or other unhelpful coping strategies. Cut down on unnecessary events and obligations and leave time for relaxation, contemplation, reflection, spiritual renewal, simple service, and enjoying the small yet most important things in life. This will help you experience and enjoy a sense of gratitude and peace.


Did You Know?

Center for Change offers a short-term triage and stabilization program to meet the needs of families who may have limited financial resources and/or limited insurance benefit coverage. The anticipated length of stay in this short-term program will likely be between 7 and 21 days, depending on individual circumstances and need.


Upcoming Events  

Oregon Clinical Connections
Friday, January 18th, 2013
Portland, OR
3 CEU’s at no cost!

Center for Change National Eating Disorders Conference for Professionals
February 1-2, 2013
Orem, UT

NATSAP 2013 Annual Conference
February 7-9, 2013
Irvine, CA
Say hi to Tamara Noyes and Michael Berrett, PhD.

EDRS 2013 Annual Conference
February 7-9, 2013
Petaluma, CA
Center for Change is honored to sponsor Jenni Schaefer at this conference.

16th Annual Columbia River Eating Disorder Network Conference
February 9, 2013
Portland, OR
Be sure and say hi to Carrie Cameron!

2013 Elisa Project Conference
February 14, 2013
Dallas, TX
One of our Clinical Directors, Nicole Hawkins, PhD, will be presenting at this conference.


Where’s Jenni
Center for Change National Eating Disorders Conference for Professionals

February 1-2, 2013
Orem, UT

EDRS 2013 Conference

February 7-9, 2013
Petaluma, CA

Free Community Event

February 12, 2013
Hanover, NH
Jenni will be presenting at Dartmouth College.

 Jenni Schaefer is a consultant with Center for Change