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Getting through the holidays if you have an eating disorder

For many people with an eating disorder (ED), the run up to Christmas and the day itself can be a challenging time. It can feel like the focus on food - from parties, to the lead up, to the adverts we see on TV - is everywhere, and if you are experiencing negative body image, body dysmorphia or an ED, your relationship with food can be particularly draining on your mental health and wellbeing.

The festive season can also bring more challenges as you may find people asking you questions or commenting on your weight. It’s important to remember that while this is unwelcome, you don’t need validation from anyone else.

We’ve put together some tips on how to get through the festive season as best you can if you’re struggling with an ED.

  1. Communicate. Talking about your thoughts and feelings around your eating disorder can be one of the first steps to helping with recovery. If you have a trusted friend or family member, try talking to them about what you’re experiencing. Try writing your thoughts and feelings down if you are finding it difficult to say the words out loud. If there’s no one you feel you can talk to, then reaching out to one of the support services suggested at the end of this article might help you. There are a range of ways you can communicate if you don’t feel comfortable speaking face to face.
  2. Don’t compare yourself. Try not to compare yourself to anyone else - at Christmas our social media feeds can be particularly full of content that is focused on people having a good time and eating out. If this content is making you feel worse about yourself, it’s important to take time to switch off from it too. Don’t put expectations on yourself that Christmas has to be the best time of year.
  3. Remember you deserve help. For many people, there are lots of feelings and emotions associated with food. But for those with an ED, guilt after eating can make it difficult to feel any satisfaction around eating. If you find yourself struggling with feelings of guilt, it’s important to remember that you deserve support.
  4. Use a distraction technique. If you’re finding yourself struggling to cope with feelings around food, sometimes a distraction technique such as getting outside for a walk or a change of scenery can help reset your thoughts, as well as help release endorphins, a hormone associated with reducing stress and improving our sense of wellbeing. You could also try putting on your favourite playlist, listening to a podcast, watching your favourite film - whatever is working for you, keep doing it.
  5. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Christmas can be an exciting time, but it can also be anxiety inducing, especially if you feel like you are having to answer unwanted questions about your relationship with food from family members or acquaintances. Socialise on your terms, and don’t feel forced into social situations you would rather avoid.

The festive period can be even harder for a number of reasons. You deserve support, not just at Christmas, but every day.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, these organisations can support you:

Beat eating disorders

Feast: support and resources for families affected by eating disorders

Remember you can also text Shout to 85258 to speak to a trained volunteer, any time, day or night. It's free, confidential and anonymous to text us.