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Suzi Fisher – Improve Your Relationship with Food

November 13, 2023

Navigate the Holiday Season by Focusing on Self-Care

Posted In: Mindset Posted By: Suzi Fisher


Navigating the holiday season while recovering from an eating disorder can be challenging, but with proper planning and support, you can enjoy the season without compromising your recovery. Here’s a guide to help you make the most of the fall holidays while prioritizing your health and well-being.


Consult Your Treatment Team

Always talk to your treatment team, including therapists, dietitians, and healthcare providers. They can guide your situation and help you plan for the holidays. 


Set Realistic Expectations 

Understand that holiday meals and gatherings may trigger anxiety, but setting realistic expectations is essential. Have a plan for how you will cope with stressful situations. Remember, perfection is not the goal; focus on progress and self-care. 


Create a Support System

Inform your friends and family about your struggles with eating disorders and ask for their support. Having a trusted support system can make a significant difference during the holidays. 


Plan Your Meals

Work with your dietitian to create a meal plan for the holiday season. Stick to your meal schedule as closely as possible to maintain stability and reduce anxiety. Consider asking the host what they are serving. Work with your dietitian to fit the safe options into your meal plan.


Practice Mindful Eating

During holiday meals, practice mindful eating. Savor each bite, pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and eat slowly. This can help prevent overeating or undereating. As a reminder, mindful eating is not restriction. You deserve to eat the same food as everyone else at the table. 


Be Aware of Food Avoidance

Be in the present and honest if you find yourself purposely avoiding specific foods. Try incorporating less safe foods in moderation, guided by your treatment team. Do not try to compensate for the holiday meal by restricting or limiting your intake. Do your best to follow the meal plan as recommended by your dietitian. A nourished brain will help calm those anxious feelings by allowing thoughts and beliefs to come into play.


Have an Exit Strategy

 If you’re attending a holiday gathering, plan to leave if the environment becomes overwhelming or triggering. Let someone close to you know about your plan in advance. Avoid guilt or shameful feelings to come into play if you decide to leave early. Your first priority is your self-care.


Prepare Safe Foods

If you’re concerned about the food choices at a holiday event, bring a dish you’re comfortable with, ensuring it aligns with your dietary needs. Bring enough for everyone so you feel like part of the group and not singled out for your specific restrictions.


Use Coping Strategies

Develop healthy coping strategies for dealing with holiday stress and emotional triggers. Consider techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, journaling, or speaking with a therapist. This is an excellent time to dig out some coping strategies from your toolbox.


Avoid Comparisons

Refrain from comparing your food intake or appearance to others. Remember that everyone’s needs and bodies are unique. If someone comments on your body or the food on your plate, divert the conversation to other more comfortable and appropriate topics. Consider role-playing situations with your dietitian or therapist so you arrive prepared. 


Engage in Non-Food Activities

Shift the focus of holidays from food to other activities, such as taking walks, playing games, or engaging in creative pursuits. This is an opportune time to utilize tried and true distraction strategies.



Be kind to yourself and remember that recovery is a journey with ups and downs. If you have setbacks, don’t be too hard on yourself. Seek support and guidance to move forward. Give yourself the grace to accept that the holidays can be a rough time, especially for those recovering from an eating disorder. Reviewing past positive journal entries can help navigate rough situations.


Limit Alcohol

If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation, as it can lower inhibitions and make adhering to your meal plan more challenging. It is especially important to be aware of alcohol intake if your intake is compromised due to holiday stress. 


Post-Holiday Reflection

After the holidays, reflect on your experiences. What went well? What was challenging? Discuss these with your treatment team to improve your strategies for future holidays.


Remember that your health and well-being should always be the top priority. Seek professional help when needed, and lean on your support system. The holiday season can be enjoyable without compromising your recovery if you approach it mindfully and with a focus on self-care.