For many, the holidays represent food-oriented festivities. For individuals with disordered eating, the holidays can be anxiety provoking and overwhelming. The fact that many of us celebrate the holidays with special meals, treats and parties, can pose a special challenge to our loved ones with eating disorders.
Sandra Blaies, licensed clinical social worker and Eating Disorder Program supervisor at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital, provides the following suggestions for families dealing with an eating disorder — or for anyone who wants to eat well during the holidays.
- Try making your family’s holiday traditions more about relationships and activities than about food.
- The key to success is preparation. Knowing the details of holiday events will minimize stress, anxiety and fear associated with parties, meals and holiday gatherings. Planning ahead will go a long way toward successfully navigating these challenging times.
- Rely on the support of family, friends and treatment professionals. Establish a good support system and have them on speed dial.
- Talk to other family members in advance about not pushing food or commenting on diets, calories, or weight loss. Even too much emphasis on trying to make healthy choices at holiday meals can add to the stress.
- Know how to take a break when events become overwhelming.
- Remember that it is okay to enjoy food. There is nothing wrong with having a holiday treat!
Holiday meals can also be a time for progress. Knowing that you need to have your usual good breakfast, that you can negotiate serving sizes and other choices, and planning what to eat (focusing on taking care of the basic food groups: protein, carbs, calcium, fat, veggies) are good steps to recovery.
NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) also has 12 ideas to help people with eating disorders during the holiday season.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, please contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services.