The holidays can be difficult for those struggling with their eating habits.

Food tends to take center stage during the holidays, which can be difficult for those struggling with their eating habits. Here are 5 ways to stop the dread and focus on the reasons to celebrate.


The holiday season has long been known to be a time of tradition. Many special traditions involve family, friends and celebration, but even more involve food.

For someone struggling with disordered eating and who’s working to stay in tune with their bodies and eating habits, the holiday season can be an especially difficult time. Events that should evoke emotions of fun and celebration, are often met with dread and anxiety by those that feel they may lose control.

During this holiday season, stop the diet and try a new and different approach.

1. Correct Distortional Thinking

Distortional thoughts are beliefs we have that bring us back to a place we don’t want to be. Thoughts like:

It’s just one time a year….  I’ll start my diet for the New Year…. This is the ONLY time I can enjoy Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, so better drink as many as I can!  

Having these types of thoughts creep into your mind can easily derail you from your bigger goals of attempting to eat intuitively, and not binge or overeat. To combat these thoughts, we work to interrupt and remove these problematic thoughts as they arise.

2. Minimize and Manage Stress Levels

Stress is often the emotion that tends to send us into a tailspin of making poor choices for our health and well being. When we’re stressed, we feel out of control, rushed in our routine, and unable to handle one more thing. When we feel overwhelmed during the holidays, we tend to control the things in our life that demand the most attention – busy Christmas shopping, scheduling ALL the events, traveling everywhere, juggling stretched budgets, and still trying to take care of life.

The problem is, when we’re trying to stay in control of everything else, we tend to slack on other areas — unfortunately, that’s usually ourselves. Self-care and taking time out for ourselves is the thing we put last when everything else is crazy. Take the time to still address your health goals or eating habits that you’re trying to make changes around.

3. Plan Ahead to Improve Eating Habits

Having a plan about how you’re going to manage difficult situations can be one of the single, best ways to prevent an overeating episode. Having a plan doesn’t mean you won’t experience cravings or urges to binge, but it does mean you’ll be better equipped on how to respond to cravings and improve eating habits.

4. Have a Support System

Have you ever tried to manage your disordered eating issues during the holidays only to be met with all your family members bombarding you with triggering statements and judgments.

Do you really think you need to go back for seconds?

I’m only eating the vegetables this year because I’m trying to watch my weight.

Phrases such as these can be particularly difficult for those with disordered eating issues. Many people don’t understand the difficulty in trying to maintain these changes, especially when there is an abundance of food. Eliciting a support system which understands the difficulties you are facing will be most helpful in making changes for your eating behaviors during the holiday season. Explain to your friends or family members your goals and ask them to support you.

5. Focus on the Reason for the Season

From Halloween to Valentine’s Day, it may seem like there is one celebration after another featuring food. So many times we put ample focus on the food at each of these gatherings. For those with disordered eating issues, the food focus may be even more heightened.

This glamorizing of food tends to blind us from other important parts of the holiday season – friends, family, tradition and celebration. It might be helpful to remind yourself that although Grandma’s Apple Pie may be very special because you can only enjoy it once a year, it’s likely many of the other foods can be made anytime throughout the year.

Focus on the real reason for the season, and take the glorification out of the food.

Adapted from the original article.

Amber Madden, MA, LPCA is a Kentucky-based licensed mental health counselor specializing in treating eating disorders. As the creator of “Beat the Binge”, a 6-week online program, she helps individuals tackle their food rules and break free from the struggles of disordered eating, binge eating, and emotional eating. Learn more about Amber at Bloom Nutrition Therapy.

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