Founding Partner and Chief Exectutive Officer Ken Weiner, MD, FAED, CEDS, was featured in a CNN Health article on ways individuals can protect their recovery during the holiday season. Read an excerpt below or to read it in its entirey, click here
Eating Disorder Recovery During Holidays
According to the iconic holiday tune, " 'Tis the season to be jolly."
Unfortunately, popular myths about the magic of the holidays set many Americans up for a struggle with real life. For the millions of men, women and children recovering from an eating disorder, the holiday season can bring heightened stress associated with an overwhelming schedule of events, painful or frustrating family dynamics and a seemingly constant focus on food that begins at Halloween and continues through New Year's Day.
As a result, eating disorder treatment professionals frequently see an increase in eating-disordered thoughts and behaviors and lapses in recovery during the holiday season.
In reality, the holiday season may not actually be any more stressful for individuals in eating disorder recovery than everyone else -- at some point or another, we are all likely to deal with anxiety stemming from any variety of sources, including the hassle of holiday travel or overspending on obligatory gifts.
However, it is important to remember that the people struggling with eating disorders are biologically "wired" to experience higher levels of anxiety than the rest of us, and their go-to tools to manage their anxiety -- including starvation, bingeing, purging or over-exercising -- can be unhealthy and sometimes even life-threatening.
Add this predisposition toward heightened anxiety to the perfectionistic, overachieving and people-pleasing temperament of many people with eating disorders and common holiday stressors can compel those in recovery to revert back to worrisome thoughts and behaviors in an effort to manage their anxious feelings.
The following strategies can help individuals protect their recovery during the holiday season:
Create your holiday schedule carefully.
You don't have to attend every holiday party, meal or gift exchange to get in the holiday spirit. Prioritize your health and well-being over external obligations and be realistic about what you can manage.
Shift the focus from food to family and friends.
For some, rich seasonal fare and sweets can make eating in moderation difficult. For others, overabundant food and large meals can cause anxiety. Accept that food is typically a part of holiday get-togethers and turn your focus to meaningful interaction with family and friends.
Lean on your supportive network.
Surround yourself with people that have positive relationships with food and their bodies, and stay in close contact with outpatient treatment professionals -- including psychiatrists, clinicians and dietitians. Discuss your feelings, victories and challenges with these individuals as they arise and before issues become significant enough to threaten recovery.