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Surviving The Holidays With An Eating Disorder Isn't What You Think

Hey everyone, I have a special guest post for you this week. For some, the issue of food is a sensitive topic. The holidays for many people is a time where we are gathering with friends and family, usually around food, and then searching for gym membership coupons by January.  But those people who battle an Eating Disorder or have health issues related to food often find themselves dreading these gatherings.

I love this article from our guest blogger, Vania Nikolova, Ph.D., who is the head of health research at To be honest, I wasn't sure this was the right place for a blog about dieting.  But as she shared, this isn't about dieting, rather than living with a different kind of condition and issues related to it, like depression and anxiety.

The Winter Holidays have always been surrounded by friends and family who gather together to share meals, treats, and love. But when you are recovering from an eating disorder, that time can be a time of high anxiety, stress, and wondering how you are going to avoid triggers. 

Eating Disorders, like other chronic illnesses, needs to be talked about and I'm hoping that with this article, we can help someone to work through this without feeling so alone.

So, I hope you enjoy the article, and we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  – Crysta

Surviving The Holidays With An Eating Disorder

Surviving the holidays while battling with eating disorders can be tricky, but worth the fight

Surviving The Holidays With An Eating Disorder

The holiday season is almost here, and we anticipate the joy of spending time with friends and family and having some time off work. Here are some tips to use year-round and not just during the holidays but also everyday life to help avoid the dread ofy eating situation.

For many people, these positive feelings are combined with a lot of negative feelings about food. Some dread the expected weight gain; others dread that they’ll have to restrict and resist the holiday treats. But what almost everyone does is trying to find a strategy to survive the festivities with minimal damage.

This could be especially hard if you are a chronic dieter or battling with an eating disorder. I, myself am in the process of recovery from my eating disorder. Trying to stick to a normal eating routine during the holidays is difficult, but with some planning, you can master this too!

These are the strategies I use during the holidays:

Dealing with the fat talk

Fat talk is all around, not only from your friends and family but all around. It’s almost impossible to go to a café or a restaurant and not here someone justifying their food choices or berating them. This is intensified from the approaching holidays.

Since I am in recovery, I refuse to participate in fat talk of any kind. I suggest you do the same. If you are the person doing the fat talk, ask yourself what purpose is it serving? Why are you doing it? Aren’t you going to enjoy yourself more, if you eat your food without moral judgment?

Surviving The Holidays With An Eating Disorder

You can set a clear boundary with everyone. If they start talking about their food choices, calories and weight, don’t get hooked. Politely explain that diet and calories are not topics that you want to talk about. That the reason for you to meet was different and you would like to talk about your lives and not food.

Most people get the hint, and even if they slip up and start talking about how “bad” they have been with their food, they understand your reluctance to continue the conversation.

For the people who start telling you what a mistake you are making and how important diet is and so on, you can politely say that you understand that, but you are just not interested in a conversation on the topic. If they insist, try to change the subject. If they just don’t get it, I would suggest rethinking the relationship.

I know this sounds too drastic, but what good are people who can’t accept such a simple boundary?

If this describes your family, the only thing I can suggest agreeing with the person attacking you (even if you don’t agree). Statements like you might be right, work wonders. Repeated enough times they make the other person want to change the subject because you’re not playing your part of the game. If this is too painful for you, try changing the subject – ask the person about something that is important to them.

The main point here is – avoid fat talk at all cost. It’s never beneficial. And it usually ruins everyone’s mood, especially if things get heated.

 Dealing with emotional eating

 The holidays are an emotionally charged time. And sometimes it’s hard to understand where your eating behavior is coming from. Are you happy and plainly enjoying the variety of foods? Or maybe you’re stress eating?

If your relationship with your family is complicated (as mine is), the stress component of your eating is likely to be present.

The first thing that you need to realize is that all of us sometimes eat for emotional reasons. Emotional eating is part of life. And some of your consumption will be emotional. But this is not an issue. The problem is with the majority of your eating and how you’re accustomed to dealing with your emotions.

To be able to distinguish your emotions from your hunger it’s beneficial to employ mindful eating practices.

Tips help you enjoy holiday foods without deprivation and without overeating:

  • Try not to be too distracted while you are eating – if you are a part of a conversation, finish the conversation, then continue eating. Try not to mindlessly shove food in your mouth.
  • Taste your food – eat normal sized bites, chew your food and try to feel the different textures. Also, think about the tastes. Try to figure out the ingredients, also how spicy or how sweet the food is.
  • Eat slowly – not too slowly, but allow yourself to taste the food, put down your fork and then take your next bite.
  •  Don’t put a lot on your plate.
  •  Eat only the food that tastes good. Don’t force yourself to eat something, just because you have put it on your plate.
  • Assess your fullness level regularly. Before reaching automatically for the next helping just think about how full you are, do you need to eat more and if yes, try to estimate how much more should be enough (even if you are not correct, the exercise is still useful).  
  • Have a support plan in place and don't be afraid to also have an exit stratagy.

Useful things to remember

Eating is a biological necessity and not a moral act. Not eating dessert doesn’t make you a better person. Be realistic about where you are in your recovery.  Don't avoid friends and family, allow them to be your support system.  

We all change our eating patterns during the holidays, and usually, our weight fluctuates, but when we get back to normal, our weight gets back to normal. It’s much better to focus on having fun and being spontaneous than to focus on perfect eating. Your mind and your body definitely need a break.

Holidays are time to spend with friends and family, and food obsession takes your mind off what is actually essential.

Happy Holidays and best wishes!


05.jpgVania Nikolova, Ph.D., is the head of health research at She uses her academic knowledge and experience with an eating disorder to shed light on why dieting is bad news.

Hey everyone, it's Crysta again – 

This article really made me think a lot about how we talk about Eating Disorders, and what we can do to move forward instead of keeping it hidden. 

Eating disorders affect more than just the person suffering.  For many families, it is the monster that lingers around the dinner table. The way we talk about our bodies and the way we look at each other are all part of this serious problem. 

Admittedly, I've been a part of the problem with someone I cared about.  I didn't understand that men can have Eating Disorders and that you can't shame them out of it.  But it is a scary relationship issue to have. My friend didn't see himself as a powerful, beautiful person I did. He saw food as something that drove him to do things he was embarrassed about. I didn't know how to help, but it scared me to see what he would do to himself. 

Eating Disorders are no different from any other serious illness.  There is no shame in having cancer or a child with autism.  Why is there this stigma around eating disorders?  Enough is enough!

People with eating disorders need their support team to help them navigate without fear or embarrassment. 

We need to talk more about things that affect our friends, our families, and stop hiding our flaws.

Here on Dancing With Fireflies, we are going to talk more about the things that make people feel alone, lost in the dark. We are going to talk about real things so that perhaps we can help that one person standing alone in the dark to see that there are fireflies all around them.  You are not alone!

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