Coping During the Holiday Season


The NEDIC Team

date published

Dec. 21, 2022, noon



The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy and excitement, filled with gatherings of friends and family, love and laughter. However, for someone experiencing an eating disorder the holidays can be a time of anxiety and dread, as many festive traditions revolve around food. Recognizing and sharing that you may need extra support and patience from those around you is a great place to start. Here are some additional strategies to help navigate stressful holiday plans with some tips for before, during and after any gathering this season may throw your way.


  • Identify your support network - Identify people you can lean on for support. This could be folks who are aware of your recovery journey, or folks that you feel comfortable sharing your experience with. It can be helpful to establish roles ahead of time. Consider potential situations that may overwhelm you and let each person know how they can support you in those instances. 
  • Plan ahead - Anticipate stressful situations and create a plan to help you cope when at your event. Speaking to the host in advance to chat about the menu or what time food will be served may help alleviate mealtime stress. Connect with your support network. Ask if they are willing to help you enforce a no diet talk rule around the dinner table or shut down comments about food, weight and shape. 
  • Stick to your routines - Although it may be tempting to deny yourself food in anticipation of a big holiday meal, it is important to keep up your routines and eat as you normally would ahead of a gathering. Nourishing yourself throughout the day can help you regulate your emotions and respond more calmly in high stress situations. It can also help you avoid falling into the restrict-binge cycle. If you are working with a dietitian or nutritionist, spend time brainstorming strategies to stick to your meal plan through food-centric holiday celebrations.


  • Know your limits - Remind yourself it is okay to take breaks during family or group events. It is perfectly fine to need to step away to a quieter place to take a few deep breaths and ground yourself before joining back in on the holiday activities. Give yourself permission to call it an early night if you need to. You may feel pressured from family or friends to stay, but consider allowing yourself to put your well-being and recovery first.
  • Create traditions that don't centre around food - Try to shift focus away from food, toward the true meaning of the season – prioritizing time with loved ones. Make time for holiday activities that aren’t centred around food such as watching your favourite holiday movie, going ice skating or visiting a festive lights display.


  • Check-in with yourself - After returning home from a gathering check in with yourself. Notice your emotions and thoughts in a non-judgmental way and make space to practice your go-to coping strategies. Try mindfulness, journaling about your thoughts, taking a warm shower or bath or wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket. For more ideas on coping strategies, check this page out 
  • Recognize your victories - You did it – you’ve survived another holiday season! It may not have gone perfectly; there may have been some bumps along the way, and that’s okay! Make time to recognize your successes and reward yourself in a way that is meaningful to you. You deserve it.

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