Be Unique This Holiday Season

       By Camille Williams, MA, NCC, LCPC, Timberline Knolls Eating Disorder Program Coordinator

Disordered eating is rampant in our society and the holidays really highlight the pattern of celebrating with food paired with mixed messages about dieting and weight loss.

Many people may restrict most of the day leading up to a big holiday meal or graze throughout the day on appetizers. In this way, eating disorder (ED) behaviors are “normalized” on holidays.

This experience with food is often accompanied by comments such as, “I shouldn’t be eating this” or “I’m going to cheat on my diet today” or “I’ll really need to hit the gym.” These conflictual practices lead to unnecessary guilt and shame around eating and body image. For those with EDs, holidays can stir up these feelings with increased intensity.

Change is needed in many areas of life for recovery and holidays are no exception. The holidays can bring up frustration or jealousy about not being able to eat the way others do, fear or anger about body-related comments, and many more feelings.

Recovery is about navigating responses to these emotional experiences. Setting specific holiday goals around food and identifying support are keys for success. Also, exploring ways to stay connected to self-compassion and worth rather than judgment and criticism of self or body makes recovery more feasible.

Through the use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills such as mindfulness and coping ahead (strategizing in advance how to deal with future struggles), the holidays will be more intentional and meaningful.

Just because the rest of your family decides to eat one large meal for a holiday, doesn’t mean that is the best option for all. Recovery may require being “different” or making choices that go against what others do.

The benefits of following a more structured meal plan and eating several times throughout the day will help with emotion regulation (not getting “hangry”) and physical comfort (while others may experience hunger pains and bloating).

Maybe there are supportive loved ones willing to also follow a more intuitive or consistent eating pattern on the holiday to experience the same benefits? Recovery is about identifying individual goals and support needed to honor commitments.

TK Contributor: As the Timberline Knolls Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Camille Williams MA, NCC, LCPC, supports the development of curriculum, supervises the eating disorder specialists, and provides group therapy. She also educates and trains all staff on campus and advocates for eating disorder awareness through publications. Timberline Knolls serves as an iaedpPresidents Council Member.

*The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders and not intended as endorsement by iaedp Foundation, Inc. or its Board of Directors.*

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