In my years of helping people through recovery, it is clear the holidays bring about an increased need for support and skills to not only to decrease risk of relapse, but to allow for enjoyment and closeness of family and friends. These suggestions have helped many throughout stages of recovery. Warm wishes to all for a wonderful holiday.

  1. ENJOY THE DECORATIONS! Just like any other day, set a goal for moderation and balance.... The worst time to feel deprived or overly hungry is during the holidays. As always this is a major set-up to either over eat or under eat, depending on your primary symptom. If you are struggling with restriction, the odd are very unlikely you will suddenly switch to over eating, and if you binge, this will not be the day you restrict.
  2. HAVE A PLAN. Work with your team and support system to manage the major holidays. While some may protest “I just want to forget about planning one day”...the reality is ED won’t take the day off. The anxiety from planning can be over in less than an hour compared to the doubt and anxiety that could fill your holiday.
  3. IDENTIFY YOUR SUPPORT. Whether it is a family member or a close friend that joins you for the holiday, identify one person you can count on to be there for support. The type of person who understand when you are having a tough time, sometimes even before you do.
  4. BRING A DISH. It would likely be awkward to bring a meal, so offer to bring a side dish, appetizer or dessert. In doing so, you can easily inquire about the menu to help you plan ahead. “Hi Aunt Ann, can I bring a dish to the dinner? What kind of foods have you already planned to serve?”
  5. PLAN A GAME. We know there is a lot of focus on food during the holidays. Bring a game, or craft along. If there are younger kids around, crafts are great and provide a nice distraction. Games after a meal can be fun for everyone and help you limit your attention to fullness or discomfort. On-line holiday trivia can be easily accessed on your phone.
  6. TAKE A BREAK. Emotions getting the best of you? Find your support person and escape for 10 minutes, this is easy in a big crowd. A quick walk or just stepping out into the fresh air, deep breaths with some calming affirmations and you may be able resume and enjoy the holidays, as intended.
  7. PICK YOUR BATTLES CAREFULLY. We all have that relative that drives us crazy. Talking about diets, weight loss, “the know it all”...don’t let it get to you. Hear a triggering topic...walk away. A comment/compliment that upsets you...make a joke or just nod and move away. Avoid being on the defense or trying to “make your point” it’s not worth your energy, stay positive and leave the “toxic” topics and people alone.
  8. PICK AND CHOOSE YOUR FOODS. We say “all foods can fit” in the meal plan, however, the holidays may present a little difficulty. Consider your favorite foods and foods that are special to this day, prepared by a loved one. Try to have the special foods. Sweet potatoes and marshmallows may be a holiday tradition, allow for that starch by skipping the plain potatoes or roll at dinner.
  9. DESSERT DILEMMA. There will most likely be more than one dessert you like. Some opt for a small serving of 2-3 kinds; you may also decide to take a serving of 1 or 2 home to enjoy the next day. Most hosts are usually quiet flattered to have a guest ask to take something home.
  10. SNACKS AND APPETIZERS. These can be contributors to mindless eating and unexpected fullness. Appetizers are so yummy, it is easy to fill up before the meal. Timing is a factor, as well as portions. Strategies for portion control involves taking a small plate filling 1-2 times, after 1-2 plates, stop and take a break, notice your fullness. Watch your timing, ask the host when dinner will be served.
  11. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS. In preparing for the holidays, practice mindful eating and awareness of how your body feels when it’s getting full. During the holiday, when you take a plate of snacks, sit down and enjoy them. Avoid standing and eating or picking at foods. Give yourself permission to eat what you want, use awareness and avoid judgment, you will more easily detect hunger and fullness.
  12. RECOVERY IS JOYFUL. Take care of yourself through the holidays. Manage your time, your meals and practice self-care. This makes for a better you and you can enjoy the holidays and be the person you want to be with family and friends.

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