Binge Eating & the Holidays: "The Grocery Store Seems Like a Minefield"

How do you successfully navigate the holidays while in treatment for — or recovery from — binge eating disorder? ERC's Binge Eating Treatment & Recovery (BETR) Program shares many simple and empowering coping tools and techniques that you can apply each day in recovery.

We’d all love to love the holidays, right? However, for those of us struggling with binge eating disorder (BED) or related eating disorders, it can be a stressful and triggering time of year.

Holidays are often fraught with stressors: complex family dynamics, numerous parties, transitions, school breaks, and food… lots and lots of food. So how can you successfully navigate the holidays if you are struggling with binge eating disorder? We posed this question to our clinical team. 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.
Binge eating strategy #1: Create boundaries & manage stress 

  1. 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 and tired that you do not enjoy the activity or event. Simplify things as much as you can and balance activities you enjoy most, whether it’s time with your family and friends or sensory experiences, like enjoying holiday music, lights and decorations.
  2. Put your recovery first. If a certain event is difficult, triggering or pushing your boundaries, you may want to skip it this year if it is not in line with your values. Give yourself permission to not attend every event this holiday season. Also, watch your avoidance! If there is something that you want to attend, pre-commit to the event and reach out to a loved one to help you in support of attending it. 
  3. Be mindful of your emotions. Make a cope-ahead plan if you are attending events that might feel triggering and loop a support person into the plan and set small goals for yourself for the event. Remember you can always leave an event if it becomes too stressful or triggering and you will feel more in control and confident if you have a plan ahead of time.

Binge eating strategy #2: Identify your support system

  1. Bring along a friend. Enlist a safe support person to accompany you to potentially stressful/triggering events and include them in your plan and advocate for what you may need.
  2. Talk things out. Bookend an event by calling a support person before and after to process your feelings.
  3. Get family involved — if it feels safe. Involve family members by educating them about potential stressors and triggers. Then ask for their support in helping you with your recovery or including them in family therapy. (you can link to the article about support people here if you want).
  4. Find support online. Remember, there is strength in numbers! Community support can always be found within our Binge Eating Connection page on Facebook.

Above all else, take time for yourself by practicing self-care and self-compassion. 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 the 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 you are having problems with binge eating and would like to speak confidentially with one of our counselors about binge eating treatment options, please call us at 1-877-711-1690. We’re here to support you in your recovery.

Learn more about binge eating treatment.

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