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Coping With an Eating Disorder During The Holidays

Eating disorders and holidays go together like oil and water.  If you are suffering from anorexia or bulimia, I completely understand how you feel around this time of the year.  The massive amount of food that is everywhere, the family meals where everyone watches how many times you put the fork to your mouth and take notes of everything you eat, and the relatives who want to check your purse before you leave to make sure you didn’t hide any uneaten food.  Our “secret” becomes the topic of conversation and the question “Why don’t you just eat honey?” always gets asked by some well-meaning person.

Why don’t we just eat?  It would be so simple wouldn’t it – just to be able to put our disorders on the back burner just for a day or two and just gorge like all of our family members?  It would be so much easier on us to fill our plates as full as we could, have two pieces of pie, and sit on the couch afterwards bloated and happy.  But just like any other disorder; eating disorders don’t take a day off for Christmas.  The holidays turn into an extremely frustrating situation for those who suffer from an eating disorder and for those family members who just don’t understand why we just “don’t eat.”

We don’t eat because we physically cannot bring ourselves to do it.  We aren’t dieting, we aren’t trying to get a perfect body so our next selfie looks amazing, and we aren’t doing it for attention.  We have turned to eating disorders because they were our last resort in a desperate situation.  We develop eating disorders to gain control over something in our out of control lives.  I became anorexic when the mental and physical abuse from my mother was too much to handle anymore and I discovered that the hunger pains in my belly helped me forget about my swollen eye or scratched up neck.  The numbers going down on the scale meant that I had control over my own body and my anorexia was something that Mom couldn’t take from me.

We want to partake in all of the festivities and eat like we don’t have a care in the world, but it just isn’t that simple.  We don’t want to lose control, even for just a couple of hours, because a loss of control leaves us vulnerable to being hurt.  Our eating disorders are our way of coping with chaos. We do understand that our family means well and that they just want us to be healthy, however, the last thing we want to do is have a conversation about our eating disorder over a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy.  It isn’t the time or the place; it’s like discussing depression in a funeral home – you just don’t do it.

So if you have a family member suffering from an eating disorder sitting at your holiday dinner table this Christmas; please do your best to remember that they are doing the best that they can and the last thing that they want is to have attention drawn to them.  The battle going on in their head is bad enough, and the last thing that they need is to have more fuel added to the fire under the guise of well-meaning questions and stares.  Talk to them about anything but their eating disorder, find out how they are and what is going on in their lives; make them feel comfortable.  Be that family member that they feel comfortable opening up to; and maybe they can momentarily put their walls down and have that extra piece of pie after dinner.

Coping With an Eating Disorder During The Holidays

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

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APA Reference
, . (2016). Coping With an Eating Disorder During The Holidays. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Nov 2016
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