Holiday food and treats are everywhere during this time of year. It is hard to escape a store in the mall, a holiday office party, a friend’s gift exchange or a holiday dinner without seeing piles of holiday food wrapped in ribbons and bows. The holidays can trigger many unwanted negative thoughts and comments surrounding food for those individuals who are in eating disorder recovery. Food, especially food that may feel safe to an individual with an eating disorder, can be more of a battle during holiday parties and gatherings. The urge to binge on comfort foods or engage in negative self-talk can potentially increase around the holiday season if the appropriate tools and coping skills are not practiced.
1. Have a plan in place if you feel triggered by negative food talk during the holidays
If you plan on attending a holiday party or gathering, have a plan to eat a small meal beforehand. If you feel triggered to binge on comfort foods, or if you feel pressured by another individual’s negative comments regarding body image, weight or the quantity of food being consumed at the meal, then have an escape plan. An escape plan can consist of calling a friend who is willing to pick you up or even accompany you to the party. An escape plan can also mean finding a safe place at the party where you can be alone to gather your thoughts until you feel comfortable engaging with others again. You can also call your therapist if you feel you cannot control these negative triggers.
2. Be prepared to say “no” to certain gatherings where negative food talk may be present
Many individuals, with good intentions, will often push food your way. They will want you to try their favorite dessert or their new recipe without understanding your current struggle in eating disorder recovery. Knowing that even if they are pressuring you to engage in eating with them, it is okay to say “no” and to take care of yourself to get through the holiday season. You can also choose to clarify why you are saying, “no” to the food item if you feel comfortable telling others about your eating disorder recovery. You have the choice whether you want to attend holiday office parties, family parties or other holiday-themed get-togethers. If you feel that you may be triggered at an event, you always have the option of not attending.
3. Know your eating disorder triggers before you engage in social situations
Understanding your specific triggers and learning how to use coping skills to control them at holiday functions can help keep negative thoughts and self-sabotaging at bay. If there are certain topics of conversation surrounding food consumption or negative food talk that are triggering for you, then change the conversation when those topics arise. Research shows that social withdrawal and isolation related to social situations in those that suffer from an eating disorder often occur because of a past fear of negatively being evaluated by peers. Instead of isolating yourself from situations, it is important to practice your coping skills in order to navigate uncomfortable conversations. Be honest with yourself, be honest with others, recognize your emotions and learn to take control of your scenarios.
If you or someone you know needs support around the holidays, Center for Discovery can help. For more information, resources or to consult with one of our specialists, contact us at centerfordiscovery.com/contact.