Holiday Anxieties Can Trigger Relapse for Individuals with Eating Disorders

Eating Recovery Center Offers Recommendations for Navigating Holidays with Confidence Denver, Colorado (November 23, 2009) – For most, holiday meals suggest togetherness, tradition and time with family and friends. For someone in recovery from an eating disorder, however, the elevated focus on food can trigger anxiety, stress, and in severe cases, relapse. According to Eating Recovery Center (, a licensed behavioral hospital providing comprehensive treatment and sustainable recovery for eating disorders, the key to managing stress around holidays is preparation. Simply knowing the details of holiday events can minimize the anxiety and fear associated with parties, meals and holiday gatherings. Planning ahead and relying on the support of family, friends and treatment professionals will go a long way toward successfully navigating these challenging times and experiencing a lasting recovery. Eating Recovery Center offers these five recommendations to help individuals in recovery confidently manage holiday festivities:

  1. Shift the focus from food and counting calories to celebrating and spending time with loved ones.
  2. Stay away from any kind of good food/bad food talk.
  3. Surround yourself with people who have healthy relationships with their bodies, food and weight. When attending gatherings, bring a trusted family member or friend along with you if you can.
  4. Keep lines of communication open and involve your family and friends in your challenges, victories and goals.
  5. Before attending a holiday gathering, consider calling the host to ask what foods will be served. Bring along “safe food” if necessary.

During the holiday season, support from family and friends can significantly impact an individual’s ability to effectively handle these stressful situations. For those supporting someone with an eating disorder through the holidays, Eating Recovery Center offers these suggestions:

  1. Ask your family member or friend what you can do to best support them.
  2. Ease into the holiday season by focusing on activities that don’t involve food, such as putting up decorations or sending cards.
  3. Stress levels can escalate during a holiday gathering. Offering a loved one the chance to “escape” for a few moments can help keep emotions in check.
  4. Be conscious of the snacks and treats displayed during holiday times. Reducing the availability of snacks can help your family member or friend maintain their regular eating schedule.
  5. Have patience and express your continued support.

Marla Scanzello, MS, RD, director of dietary services for Eating Recovery Center, explains the key to navigating holiday eating with confidence is realizing where your family member, your friend or you are in the recovery process. She also emphasizes the importance of support, flexibility and acknowledgment of needs. “If things don’t go as planned, realize that one meal doesn’t make or break you,” explains Scanzello. “Simply get back on track with the next meal.” If an eating disorder does escalate during holiday times, seeking treatment at a facility specializing in eating disorder care may be the best course of action. A variety of treatment centers across the country, including Eating Recovery Center, offer different specializations and treatment options, as well as the ability to treat patients requiring different levels of care.

About Eating Recovery Center Eating Recovery Center, situated at the foot of the Rockies in beautiful downtown Denver, Colorado, provides individuals 17 and older sustainable recovery from eating disorders in a warm, nurturing environment.  Our comprehensive program offers patients from across the country a continuum of care that includes inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and outpatient services in a licensed and Joint Commission accredited behavioral hospital setting.  Our compassionate team of professionals collaborates with treating professionals and loved ones to cultivate lasting behavioral change.  For more information, please call 877-218-1344, e-mail or chat with us confidentially at


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