Navigating The Holidays: 5 Tips For Supporting A Loved One With An Eating Disorder

When a friend or family member has an eating disorder, getting through the holidays can be challenging.

And while you may feel the need to be hypervigilant about this person’s habits during a time when food is the focus, experts recommend backing off and learning ways to respect his or her recovery. Here are some tips from Eating Recovery Center:

Communicate your support

According to Elizabeth Easton, PsyD, clinical director of child and adolescent services at Eating Recovery Center’s Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents, simply asking your loved one how you can help is a great step. Show that you’re sensitive to his or her needs, and open up a conversation about how you can assist in making things easier for him or her during parties or family gatherings.

Don’t overstep boundaries

If your loved one is in recovery, make sure you’re not acting like the “food police.” It’s likely your loved one knows what he or she needs to do, and getting pressure from others may only be detrimental, causing anxiety and possibly even triggering an episode.

Scale down plans

While it’s easy to get booked with lots of holiday engagements this time of year, Bonnie Brennan, MA, LPC, clinical director of Eating Recovery Center’s Partial Hospitalization Program, recommends that you keep plans simple and minimal. Try to stay close to home, avoid unnecessary travel and keep social events smaller than usual. This can help ease the stress on someone in recovery.

Expect challenges

The holidays can be a time when people put pressure on themselves and their families to fit a certain ideal, says Brennan. But expect that, if someone is in recovery, there may be some hiccups. Plans might need to change or obstacles may need to be dealt with. Accept that things won’t be perfect.

Watch how you talk about food

Offhand remarks about food–how many calories you ate, how you need to hit the gym to burn off last night’s meal–can create a negative environment for someone in recovery from an eating disorder. Pay close attention to what you say about food; be sensitive to how it might be perceived by your loved one.

Source: Psych Central

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

Find a Treatment Facility Near You

Click on a state below to find eating disorder treatment options that could be right for you.

The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes and we encourage all visitors to see a licensed physician if they believe that they have an eating disorder. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

Copyright © 2008-2017
Company Information

© 2017 All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of's terms of service and privacy policy. The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.