Eating disorder holiday survival plan


Eating disorder holiday survival planFor someone suffering from an eating disorder, the holiday season can elevate fears surrounding food and heighten levels of anxiety enough to make you want to shut down and run for cover.

“During the holidays, the psychological warfare that is going on in the minds of Anorexics, Bulimics, and Binge Eaters is monumental. They want to socialize and be normal, but their anxieties about food often prevent them from participating in otherwise enjoyable social gatherings,” Avalon Hills Residential Eating Disorders Program.

The crowning point of every holiday celebration is the magnificent spread of food. It brings families and friends together and is something most people look forward to with great relish. For someone with an eating disorder, however, the holidays can be a nightmare and only exacerbate your situation by drawing attention to your condition. Now more than at any other time of year is the time to sit down and set out a plan of action.

“In Canada, about 4% of college-aged women suffer from bulimia.”

Working with your counsellor, devise a survival plan to guide you through the holiday celebrations with minimal stress and discomfort. This will include a menu plan, how to deal with questions about your disorder from visiting family and guests, and how to politely say ‘no’ to forbidden foods. It is also wise to have your counsellor or Employee Assistance Program on speed dial. In addition, alert someone you trust that you may need to call them at the last minute for support. Remember: when things get a little too much to bear, you can always step outside and take a moment to regroup before joining the party.

For immediate support, use First Chat for instant connection to an EFAP counsellor.

For someone with anorexia, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder, your plan of action starts with a menu plan and a list of foods, broken down into three categories:

  • Safe foods
  • Risky foods
  • Forbidden foods

Your safe foods will help keep you in the anxiety-free zone and can be further broken down into proteins, carbs and fats. Give yourself healthy portion sizes, ones that you can comfortably manage to eat without anxiety or becoming too full. Do the same thing for risky foods – the kind you find at the appetizer table – so you know ahead of time exactly what you can comfortably afford to eat. Forbidden foods are just that – forbidden and should be avoided for fear of triggering destructive behaviours.

Having a plan helps set in motion new practices and healthy eating behaviours. It is also a great time to set yourself new goals and to use the holidays as a training ground for coping in similar social situations. Remember to add to your list some recovery techniques for when things don’t quite go according to plan.

Everybody is allowed to slip up – this is how we learn.

It is also important to sit down with your family beforehand and talk to them about your anxiety over the upcoming holiday feast and how they can help you through this difficult time of year. Achieving a relaxed environment for everyone involved will help reduce the fear and anxiety surrounding this festive season and help guide you into the New Year celebrations with confidence.

Click here to connect to a counsellor through your Employee and Family Assistance Program at anytime, anywhere, day or night.


  1. Somerset & Wessex Eating Disorder Association
  2. PsychCentral

Tags: , , ,