eating disorders holiday tips healthy futures

For individuals and families struggling with eating disorders, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time of year. There are expectations, family members who say the wrong things, and celebrations that focus on a meal.  These triggers can make for a stressful holiday time. The good news is, you can learn to avoid the triggers and make your holidays happy. Here are some eating disorder treatment pointers to help.

For individuals:

  • Let go of perfectionistic ideas and behaviors. Free yourself from the shame of imperfection.
  • Communicate honestly. Be proactive by letting others know what you need, so they don’t have to assume.
  • Take time for yourself. Make your holiday time more than just the meal.  Play a family game.  Go for a walk.
  • Delegate. Don’t do everything yourself!
  • Listen to yourself. Pause and identify how you are really feeling.

For Families:

  • Be aware of the triggers.
  • Validate and support. A comment like this works well: “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I want you to know, I care, and I’m here for you.”
  • Don’t focus on food, weight, body, or body image. Diet talk after a holiday meal is a big trigger!
  • Don’t ask how they are doing. Better is to greet them with “It’s so good to see you. I’m glad you could make it over.”
  • Get support. The recovery process takes time. Educate yourself to help you cope.


Healthy Futures specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, but also offers other specialized counseling. Contact us today at (480) 451-8500.


Jeanne Phillips: Hello, my name is Jeanne Phillips. I’m a therapist and life coach as well as certified eating disorder specialist at Healthy Futures. On behalf of myself and my wonderful staff, I’m saying the holidays are here. Although it’s the most romanticized time of the year, it’s probably one of the most difficult times of the year for individuals with eating disorders and their families.

I would like to take a little bit of your time, and give you some pointers as to how to survive the holidays. For my patients out there who are struggling, I would say, “Let go of your perfectionistic ideas and behaviors.” That will only trigger your shame. Listen to your body, use your skills.

Let people know what you’re wanting. Be honest, be authentic in your communication. They can’t read your mind. I want you to know for sure that you’re going to be triggered by those people out there, who think they’re saying good things to you to help you get through this, but often times, you know what your triggers are. Use your skills, not to let that put you in a funk.

Take time for yourself, do things outside of just focusing on the meal. Before or after, play games with your family, go for a walk, watch a movie that’ll probably make you cry because that’s how Christmas movies always are, but that’s OK as well. Don’t focus on doing everything by yourself. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

I want you to think about this. Many of you out there feel like, “Oh, my gosh, I feel fat.” Fat’s not a feeling. What I would say to you, when that happens, I want you to think back and say, “No, I’m feeling fearful. I’m feeling anxious, and I’m feeling threatened.” I want you to breathe, and I want you to step back, and listen to your body.

For you folks out there who are supporting your loved ones, it’s really important that you be able to be aware of what their triggers are, not walk on eggshells, but at least be aware of what their triggers are.

This is a really hard one for individuals out there because they often times don’t understand the language of eating disorders and when a patient comes to them or a child or spouse, and talks about what they’re feeling, often times they can’t understand what that’s about because they’ve not experienced that.

I’d suggest to you, please, just validate and support. You can even say, “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I want you to know, I care, and I’m here for you.”

Family members, don’t focus on food, weight, body, or body image. Please don’t talk about how you’re going to go on a diet after the first of the year, very triggering. Besides diets don’t work, so why set yourself up as well.

It’s also really important when you address a patient or your loved one again that you ask them not how they’re doing, but rather, “It’s so good to see you. I’m glad you could make it over,” because saying, “How are you?” or “Oh, you’re looking great,” huge triggers, just a little beware there.

Lastly, what I would recommend is you find support for yourself because eating disorder recovery is a process. Your loved one didn’t get this way overnight and he or she is not going to get better overnight. Educate yourself, so you too can survive the recovery process. On behalf of myself and my dream team at Healthy Futures, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday.