Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date.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.

By Quinn Nystrom

Around the holiday season is when every commercial, Facebook ad, Pinterest Pin, and grocery newsstand is bursting with colorful images of decadent desserts, festive recipes, and well-staged dinner tables that look like they are about to overflow.

As the media inundates our visual world with everything from holiday donuts to sugar-loaded drinks, never forget that YOU are in control. Genuinely enjoying the holidays has nothing to do with who-ate-the-fanciest dessert but instead has everything to do with love, family reunions, and gift-giving.

So as the advertisements and commercials that hint “to truly enjoy the holiday season, you must cook/create/eat X, Y, and Z,” come at us faster and furious, stand your ground.

Not buying into that hype will serve you well when navigating the holidays with an eating disorder.

Here are a few more ideas:

Focus on what you are grateful for:

There is always something to be grateful for, and when you focus on the good, there is always more to celebrate. Instead of focusing on what isn’t going right or the things/places/foods you cannot enjoy, think with a grateful mind and heart. Finding things to be thankful for daily can be as simple as the warm bed you sleep in every night to more profound things like appreciating family and friends are all alive and well.

When It’s “Too People-y” Out There:

Celebrations and gatherings can have a one-two-punch effect of dealing with large quantities of food and large groups of people. Whether you struggle with an eating disorder, depression, or anxiety, the holidays can often make us want to isolate ourselves in our rooms until it’s over. Curious stares from family as you try

and enjoy a meal aren’t helping either. The course of action (that doesn’t involve isolation) is to ensure that your primary focus of the holiday is not on the food but on the family and the time you will share. Whenever possible, let the host know you will only be able to stay for an hour or two because of other commitments. Remember, there is a balance between celebrating the holidays with your loved ones and knowing when to spend some solitary time nurturing yourself.

Cut Yourself Some Slack:

We all stumble and fall. We all mess up and do things we regret later. The trick is not allowing that regret and guilt to move in and set up shop in our brains.

Mistakes will be made. Failure will occur. You pick yourself up and carry on. – Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic.

The holiday season is beautiful and magical but also stressful and overwhelming. These are also times when it’s essential to ask for help. If food and people are triggering old feelings and habits, never be afraid to ask for help.

No shame, no judgment; call a friend, a sponsor, a support person, or an agency and say, “Hey, I’m struggling here. I could use some help.”

You are not alone