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15 Tips for Navigating the Holidays & Eating Disorder Recovery

On top of the challenges we have all met during 2020, changes in routine during winter break and the holidays can increase stressors and create new challenges for those in recovery from an eating disorder. For these individuals, this can be an especially challenging time – wherever they are on their recovery journey. Even those who have been in full recovery may find the restrictions on socialization, in-person resources, and support taking a toll. We’ve compiled a list of strategies to help you navigate the holiday season while prioritizing your recovery.

15 Strategies to Effectively Navigate the Holiday Season While Maintaining Recovery
  1. Cope ahead – anticipate challenging scenarios and visualize yourself responding effectively
  2. Consider increasing support for the season – extra outpatient sessions, online support groups
  3. Stick to a schedule – it’s helpful to maintain a sense of routine, and consistent meal/snack times
  4. Have a plan – discuss menu with family/friends or create your own
  5. Avoid overthinking food choices. Appetizers and desserts fit too!
  6. Meet yourself where you’re at – while still meeting your needs!
  7. Do not skip meals/snacks before or after your holiday meal to compensate – it’s a slippery slope
  8. Identify a recovery ally – consider a code word or signal for when you need support
  9. Plan in breaks from stressful scenarios – or family!
  10. Schedule pleasurable activities and self-care
  11. Don’t make it *all* about the food – include holiday traditions like a favorite game or movie
  12. Mute unhelpful social media with diet culture messages about the holidays
  13. Assert yourself and set limits with family members and be prepared to manage unhelpful comments – you can’t control others, but you can control your response
  14. Set an intention for the holiday that is in line with your values and life worth living in recovery
  15. Stay safe – this is a great year to create new traditions!

Maintaining your recovery during the holiday season requires a certain degree of thoughtfulness and planning, we also hope that you can find some joy and gratitude this holiday season. If you or your loved one need additional support during the holiday season, know that we are always here. You are never alone – we are here to help.

Authors

Mem Wood, MS, LCMHC is a psychotherapist and Clinical Director at Veritas Collaborative’s Adult Hospital in Durham, NC. She attended New College of Florida, where she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature and Gender Studies. Mem earned her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Florida International University. Mem completed her training at the Renfrew Center of South Florida, a residential treatment center for eating disorders. Prior to her transition to Veritas, Mem worked most recently as Program Manager at the Renfrew Center of South Florida, while also serving as manager of the Aftercare Department and a primary therapist for individuals with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other eating disorder diagnoses at the residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient levels of care.

Elysse Thebner Miller, MPH, RD, LDN, CEDRD, is a the Manager of Nutrition Services at Veritas Collaborative’s Adult Hospital in Durham, NC. She attended Ithaca College where she completed her Bachelors of Science degree in Health Sciences/Pre-Medical Studies with an emphasis in Nutrition, with minors in Anthropology and Art. Elysse attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health where she completed her Masters in Public Health with a focus on Nutrition. Elysse completed her Dietetic Internship at UNC Center for Excellence of Eating Disorders and Duke University. She most recently worked as a Registered Dietitian at UNC CEED clinic as inpatient, partial hospitalization, and outpatient dietitian as well as research dietitian in trials for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.