• 14Nov

    Managing Eating Disorders During the Season of Holiday Parties

    For the nine million American men, women and youth who struggle with eating disorders or overeating, the holiday season can be a very stressful time of year. With the holidays come parties, family gatherings, large meals and an excess of sweet treats.

    The number one tip health and psychiatric professionals give to managing eating disorders during the holidays is to plan ahead. Whether you are one of the nearly 10% of women who struggle with anorexia or bulimia, or you struggle with overeating, having a plan ahead of time will help you avoid the common triggers and pitfalls that may otherwise befall you during the holidays.

    The Eating Disorders team at UNC also recommends designating a “wing man” or friend who can help you navigate the holidays. This individual should be someone you trust, someone who knows what triggers your unhealthy eating behavior, and knows how to help you if you get overwhelmed. When attending holiday parties, bring your wingman along. Have a special signal to let them know when you might be struggling and need to step out of the room for support. Talking often helps individuals through moments of temptation or triggers.

    Having a designated “wing man” may prove to be very helpful for you, but here are some other tips for managing your eating disorder during the holidays:

    • If you’re attending a potluck party, be sure to cook a dish that you consider to be “safe.” That will guarantee you at least one thing to eat while at the party that won’t trigger your eating disorder or unhealthy behaviors.
    • Never go to a holiday party hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Think “HALT,” the common slogan for eating disorder treatment and recovery.
    • Anticipate drama. Be realistic, the holidays are never drama-free, especially when spent with immediate and extended family. If family drama tends to be a trigger for your eating disorder, prepare yourself ahead of time for a potentially emotional or stressful evening. If you don’t go into the holidays expecting perfection, you will better able to navigate common triggers associated with emotions and family-related stress.

    If you feel attending a particular event will be too much of a struggle for you, don’t hesitate to politely decline the invitation. While the holidays are certainly not a time of the year to be alone, only you know if attending a particular event or being around certain people will trigger your eating disorder. When choosing which events to attend, select those that are not food-centric.

    Eating disorders can cause serious health complications. If you or someone you love suffers from binge eating, compulsive over-eating or bulimia, seek help from a professional.