When I think about the holidays, I immediately envision family and food. While some may look forward to spending time surrounded by family and feasting, others can dread this time of year. The holidays can be a trigger time for those suffering from an eating disorder. In fact, in January, many new diets and workouts advertise ways to “burn off those holiday calories.” It is a time when over-eating is commonly accepted and encouraged. In a culture that celebrates holidays surrounded with food, it can be very difficult for those suffering from anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.
Often times the combination of anxiety from dealing with family and food can be a big trigger for those suffering from an eating disorder.
Anorexia: With anorexia, there is a fear of food. Individuals may feel that eating something that is not “okay” is going to cause them to get fat, and therefore they spend the holidays feeling guilty. Eating holiday food may make them feel that they are losing control of their eating disorder. Frequently, self-worth and self-esteem are wrapped up into an eating disorder. Therefore, the guilt from eating and becoming out of control may lead to other negative thoughts.
Bulimia/Binge: Due to the indulgent focus on food during the holidays, people struggling with bulimia and binge-eating disorders may become fixated on food. Many times the foods that are prevalent during the holidays, like trigger food of sweets or high-fat foods can be too enticing. Therefore, a binge or a purge often happens. This then leads to guilt and shame, and the person not being able to truly enjoy the spirit of the season.
In therapy, I like to make a plan before the holidays so that clients feel that they are in control of their eating disorders and they have the power to make different decisions. I also like to make a support plan with them in case they are feeling triggered. If you are going through an eating disorder, please call today and talk to one of our therapists.
Chelsey Beauchamp, LAPC