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Joshua Childrens Foundation


Surviving the Holidays with Eating Disorders [December 2004]

Persons with Eating Disorders should have eating disorder support in place through the holidays.

Holidays can often be difficult for people with eating disorders for two reasons:

1) Holiday celebrations usually center around dinners or parties where food is an important part of the celebration.

2) Celebrations are often social situations that include family and friends with whom the eating disordered person has unsolved issues.

A high number of persons with eating disorders have experienced child abuse from family members.
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Holiday Foods:

Most foods included in holiday celebrations are trigger foods with simple carbohydrates, desserts, and candies. These are the foods that people with eating disorders recognize as "binge foods". These foods are highly addictive.

A suggestion would be that before you attend these celebrations, you could eat a snack or meal of healthy foods so that you are not hungry when you attend these celebrations. This will help you to avoid the trigger foods or to make better food choices if you eat at the event.

Family and People issues:

A high percentage of abuse happens within the family. And being around family members who were/are abusers is a difficult situation for the victim.

Eating disorders are often caused from abusive relationships from childhood. And holidays often put us in social situations that may include the person who was abusive and family members who either ignored this abuse are or unaware of it. This is very stressful for an eating disordered person and can trigger emotions that make the 'binge foods' more tempting.

Before holiday social situations think through this event before hand and plan a strategy. Your strategy could include thinking through who will be attending the event that are "safe people" who were not a part of the abuse. If at a sit down dinner, try to be seated with these safe people and away from the abuser. The goal is to try to minimize conversations and contact with the abuser. If being around this social situation is too difficult, it is a good idea to have a plan to leave the event early. Or have a strategy to simply take a temporary exit by leaving the room, or going outside for a brief time alone or with a supportive person.

Discuss your anticipations before the event with your therapist and/or your eating disorder support group. During the holiday season it is usually more important to be plugged into support groups and your therapist.

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