Navigating Holiday Stress: Understanding Eating Disorders and Coping Mechanisms 

The holiday season is often painted with images of joy, celebration, and togetherness. However, for those struggling with eating disorders, this festive time can be one of stress and anxiety. Food-centric gatherings, societal pressure to indulge, and the fear of judgment can trigger an even more difficult relationship between food and one’s body. As a result, disordered eating can intensify during the holidays, exacerbating the already challenging emotional landscape. The constant exposure to elaborate meals and treats can fuel guilt, shame, and a pervasive sense of loss of control.  

However, this blog aims to provide strategies to navigate these challenges and foster a healthier relationship with food during the holidays: 

  • First and foremost, seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals is crucial. 
  • Establishing open communication about your feelings and concerns can alleviate the burden of isolation.  
  • During meals, sit with support. Identify family members who criticize rather than comfort you and stay away from them during meal time. 
  •  Setting realistic expectations is also key. Instead of fixating on restrictive diets or succumbing to the pressure to overindulge, focus on balanced and mindful eating.  
  • Avoid labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and remember that everything is okay in moderation. 
  • Incorporating stress-relieving activities such as meditation, deep breathing, or engaging in non-food-related festivities to keep you busy can provide alternative outlets for emotional expression. 

Ultimately, understanding the triggers and embracing coping mechanisms is essential for individuals facing the intersection of eating disorders and holiday stress. By prioritizing mental well-being, one can navigate the season with greater resilience and lay the groundwork for a healthier relationship with food in the long run.  

National Eating Disorder Association Resources:  

NEDA Helpline:  

Call 1-800-931-2237 

Monday – Thursday, 11:00 am – 9:00 pm  

Friday, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm  

Online chat is also available via the NEDA website (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

Treatment options: https://map.nationaleatingdisorders.org/  

Support options: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/free-low-cost-support 

References:  

Irwin, K., Land, D., & Ziajka, S. (2021). 6 things to lose this holiday season that aren’t weight. National Eating Disorders Association. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/6-things-lose-holiday-season-arent-weight  

Dannibale, K. (2014). The effects of the holidays on eating disorders. New Errands: The Undergraduate Journal of American Studies. 

By Wehazit Mussie  

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