How can we cope during the holidays?

woman at fall

By: Leigh-Ann Bamberg MS, RDN, LD

For many people, the holidays are a time of joy and merriment; a time for family and friends to gather and enjoy each other’s company while sharing in annual traditions and abundant laughter. For most people, highlights of the holiday season include cooking and indulging in a traditional holiday meal. However, for individuals suffering from an eating disorder, the holidays are often a time of increased stress and anxiety. Because of the emphasis placed on food during this season, the holidays can magnify internal personal struggles and can increase disordered behaviors. The combination of anxiety being around family, as well as the increased focus on food, can be triggering to those dealing with an eating disorder.

One might wonder why the holidays are a cause of increased anxiety for individuals suffering from an eating disorder. The holiday season is a time of celebration, often accompanied by special treats and meals. Those who struggle with an eating disorder during the holiday season sometimes worry about what they will eat, how much they can allow themselves to eat, or even how much exercise is needed afterward to burn off the consumed calories. Also, the foods that are often served at a traditional holiday meal are ones that they may categorize as “bad foods.” The overwhelming thoughts and emotions leading up to the holiday season can cause an even greater preoccupation with food, weight, and overall body image.

What are coping strategies?

While the holiday season may be difficult for one suffering from an eating disorder, there are strategies to help better cope during the holidays.

  • Speak with the family members or other support systems before the holidays to help them better understand specific triggers and needs.
  • If following a meal plan that has been prescribed by a Registered Dietitian; try to adhere to it as much as possible to avoid restricting or bingeing.
  • Make a list of relaxing and distracting activities to use in the case a family member becomes too overwhelmed.
  • Be sure to plan time for any loved ones who are struggling to mentally recharge and know that by providing space and a “get out strategy” you are supporting their recovery when things get too stressful.

The holidays can be a very stressful time, but for those with an eating disorder, it can also be a “triggering” time. Taking the time to prepare and plan as a family for a loved one can help them transition into the holidays easily.

Magnolia Creek Offers Hope

For those who need more comprehensive treatment for an eating disorder, Magnolia Creek offers two levels of care to help you achieve eating disorder recovery.

Residential Program

Our highest level of care is the residential program which provides a structured, constant, and stable environment that helps clients restore their physical and psychological health. Clients participate in interventions and meet regularly with the medical director, nurses, and their registered dietitian. Clients are continually recognized for their progress and develop coping skills to assist them in moving toward a life beyond their eating disorder.

Partial Hospitalization Program

Partial Hospitalization (PHP) at Magnolia Creek allows clients to apply the skills they learned while in treatment to their daily lives, while still receiving a strong level of professional care. Our professional clinicians provide regular feedback and support as clients gain confidence while transitioning out of treatment.

Therapies at Magnolia Creek

We work with our clients and their families to be active participants in the treatment process and develop a customized treatment plan that identifies their treatment goals and provides the support needed to achieve and maintain the desired change. Our strengths-based and collaborative program uses a combination of evidence-based group and individual therapies to help clients recover from, not just manage, their eating disorder.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Mindfulness
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Internal Family Systems

As the recovery journey continues, its encouraging for those struggling to know a day may come when the holiday season is no longer distressing, food and body thoughts will no longer consume them and take away from the joy that comes with the holidays, and they may one day look forward to the season. This year focus on finding safe foods, follow a meal plan, and allow a loved one to step away from stressful situations in the hopes that next year, they can enjoy the season and the dessert!

Magnolia Creek wants to ensure that no one ever feels alone. We are here to help you or your loved one regain freedom from an eating disorder. For more information on our eating disorder treatment program, call our admissions team at 205-409-4220 or complete our contact form.


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