While we typically think of Labor Day as the unofficial end to summer, when you think about it, it’s also the unofficial start of the holiday season. At least that’s what the stores would like us to think. Displays of sunscreen and pool toys are replaced with Halloween candy and fall decorations; Thanksgiving and Christmas displays soon follow.
We’d all love to love the holidays, right? However, for those of us struggling with binge eating disorder (BED)
and other eating disorders, it can be a stressful and triggering time of year. Holidays are fraught with stressors: interesting family dynamics, numerous parties, transitions, including school breaks, and food… lots and lots of food.
So how can you successfully navigate the holidays if you are in treatment for binge eating disorder
(or in recovery)? We posed this question to our clinical team from ERC’s Binge Eating Treatment & Recovery (BETR) Program
. The coping tools and techniques they offered are simple and incredibly empowering.
We encourage you to bookmark this article (or print it out if you’re able to) so you can refer back to their tips and advice in the months ahead.
Manage your meals to manage your binge eating
- Plan your meals ahead of time. The grocery store can feel like a minefield around the holidays. Make a specific meal plan for yourself. Then, create a grocery list based off that plan before going shopping. Be sure to organize your list by your store’s layout and grocery sections to minimize lots of back-and-forth roaming through the aisles. This will help you stay focused and protected from impulse buying.
- Simplify. Try simplifying your meals, which can make them more satisfying in the end. It’s natural to want to try a little bit of everything when faced with a tempting buffet of food choices; however, research shows that full portions of a few foods make us feel more satisfied than “dibs and dabs” of lots of things.
- Notice impulsive eating. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a once-in-a-lifetime food. If you see something you want, but it’s not in your plan for that day, practice delaying the urge to eat it in that moment and then plan to have it tomorrow or later in the week. We’re less likely to feel guilty and out of control when we savor food that it is planned and purposeful versus impulsive and emotional. This tip can help you avoid loss of control eating.
- Stick to your meal plan. Try planning a holiday meal throughout the day rather than restricting in anticipation of that one big meal. Enjoy holiday items as part of your meal plan—including breakfast, lunch and snacks—so you can space it out and not have to agonize over what to choose for dinner. Who says you can’t have a slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast — as long as it part of your meal plan?
- Stick to your schedule. Follow your prescribed eating, sleeping, movement routine during the holidays. It's so important to get good sleep in binge eating recovery.
Create boundaries to manage stress
- Choose activities wisely. Make realistic expectations about participation in holiday activities. It can be easy to get into the “I must do this, must do that” mindset of obligations and traditions, only to end up so stressed that you do not enjoy the activity or event. Simplify things as much as you can. Focus on the non-food-related things you enjoy most, whether it’s time with your family and friends or sensory experiences, like enjoying holiday music, lights and decorations.
- Put your recovery first. If a certain event has a history of triggering a binge, you may want to skip it this year.
- Be mindful of your emotions. Remember you can always leave an event if it becomes too stressful or triggering. Have a plan in place to excuse yourself prior to the event. You’ll feel more in control and confident!
Create a support system
- Bring along a friend. Enlist a safe support person to accompany you to potentially stressful/triggering events. Have this person plate your food (particularly if it is a buffet or hors d'oeuvres) then sit down with your support person to eat the food.
- Talk things out. Bookend an event by calling a support person before and after to process your feelings.
- Get family involved — if it feels safe. Involve family members by educating them about potential stressors and triggers. Then ask for their support in toning down the holidays to reduce stress.
- Find support online. Remember, there is strength in numbers! Community support can always be found within our Binge Eating Connection page on Facebook.
Learn more about creating a strong support team for binge eating disorder
Above all else, take time for yourself by practicing self-care. Make “dates” with yourself before the holidays begin; schedule in downtime to your calendar as well as “appointments” for mindfulness exercises and self-soothing activities
We encourage you to be kind and forgiving with yourself. It’s perfectly okay to not do it all perfectly. If you experience a setback, try not to judge yourself. Instead, look for the teachable moment so that next time you encounter a similar trigger or challenge, you’ll be better equipped to handle it.
On behalf of the Eating Recovery Center team, we wish you all the best this holiday season. If at any time you need additional assistance, please call us at (877) 766-1097. We’re here to support you in your recovery.