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Coping With Disordered Eating And Family Stress During The Holidays

The holiday season brings family gatherings, big meals, and extravagant celebrations. It should be a joyous time where we focus on the things that we’re grateful for and enjoy the company of our loved ones; however, those struggling with disordered eating and dysfunctional family dynamics often feel a strong sense of anxiety and stress during this time of year. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, gatherings are rife with food-centric celebrations where overindulgence is often encouraged. Dr. Allison Chase and her associates offer advice on how to recognize these triggers, tips to overcome the tough holiday season, and how to move forward. Disorder Eating During the Holidays Thanksgiving is meant to be about sharing the things that we are grateful for. However, this is often put on the backburner, and the lavish meal has become the main focus of this holiday. For those struggling with disordered eating, this can be an enormously stressful situation. Even those that do not necessarily struggle with the disease are constantly discussing dieting behaviors, the urge to severely cutback after the holiday or exercise excessively. All of which are precursors for disordered eating. With all the triggers that the holidays bring, it’s important to stay on track and avoid slip-ups. 1. Seek Support Speak to someone who understands. Whether it be a friend, a clinician, or a family member, discuss your feelings with someone who knows what you’re going through and can encourage healthy behavior. Let them know ahead of time that you might be tempted by holiday triggers, so they can be there to help and distract. Also, keep any appointments. The holidays are busy, but resist the urge to cancel therapy sessions because they may just be your saving grace. Keeping up with your normal day-to-day activities is key. 2. Plan It can be tempting to skip meals because you’re worried about the large meals that will follow throughout the day. Make sure to eat breakfast and keep on with your regular meal plan. Maintain normalcy as much as possible. Remove yourself from those that are discussing their diet plans or overeating – this could be a dangerous trigger. 3. Focus on What You’re Thankful For Positivity is key. Take the time to think about what you’re grateful for and maybe even write them down in a journal. Surround yourself with loved ones who understand what you’re going through and make a point to focus on the good things in your life. Family Dynamics During the Holidays Family stress during the holiday season is often a big trigger to resort back to unhealthy and sometimes dangerous behaviors as well. Whether you’re afraid of criticism, your appearance, conflict and fights, bad memories, etc, emotional vulnerability could trigger feelings of anxiety. Much like planning ahead to avoid disordered eating, planning ahead emotionally to cope with family situations is equally important.

  • Keep those who support you close, and speak with them often.
  • Change the topic when necessary. If someone seems to belabor a topic that makes you uncomfortable, bring up something positive.
  • Fresh air is your friend. Avoid feeling suffocated by staying inside. Take walks, deep breaths, and get some fresh air whenever possible.
  • Don’t set unrealistic expectations. People’s personalities don’t tend to change over a year, so expect to have similar issues with those you’ve had before. Instead, focus on the positives and accept the fact that it’s okay to have different opinions and ways of handling things.

In order to ensure a positive, healthy holiday season, remember these little things to help you stay on track! By being open, planning ahead, and sticking to your regular lifestyle, you can cope with the triggers that might cause stress and anxiety. *Dr. Allison Chase is a Licensed Psychologist in private practice in Austin, Texas. She works with children, adolescents, young adults and families specializing in mental health issues, eating disorders, parental training and education, and family or team-based therapy. 

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