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Christmas is on the way once again, providing an opportunity for many of us to take stock of the year, get together with families and enjoy some much-earned rest. But if you're struggling with an eating disorder, it’s completely understandable if you’re worried that Christmas may exacerbate your challenges, rather than being a time for rest and relaxation.

The leading eating disorder charity, BEAT, often sees a spike in calls to their helpline at Christmas, with people's struggles with disorders like anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder (BED) and other specified feeding or eating disorders (OFSED) intensifying at a time when indulgence is most encouraged in society. If you’re worried about how to handle all of the excess eating and drinking around you this Christmas, as well as the continued separation from family and friends, we can help.

Here’s some expert advice around managing the festive season while living with an eating disorder.

Tips for Managing an Eating Disorder at Christmas

Try to Talk to People Every Day

Whatever your household and family situation situation, many of us will experience some form of loneliness over the Christmas period. It's not a problem that's exclusive to people who spend it alone either. Priory research found that around a third of men describe themselves as lonely at Christmas, even though they will spend the festive period around other people. If you feel this way, it might have led you to carry out unhealthy eating behaviours, whether that’s relying on binges, restricting food intake or even excessively exercising with the increased free time.

Try to let this inform how you move forward over Christmas, remembering that speaking to other people is proven to have many benefits for our mental health. Keep a list of people you know you can call or otherwise speak to, and promise yourself you’ll chat to at least one of them each day. Opening up about how you feel each day, to someone you trust, will provide you with a valuable sense of support. Even just talking about your day, or listening to someone people talk about theirs, can make you feel a sense of togetherness and boost your self-esteem. This, in turn, will reduce many of the negative emotions that can lead to the triggers of eating disorder symptoms.

Keep a Sense of Normality in Your Routine

Christmas will naturally mess up our usual routines, which might have left you feeling highly unsettled. Longer supermarket queues, plus the swelling of crowds in high streets and shopping centres for the Christmas rush, is a common source of anxiety and stress for a lot of us. If you find it too stressful going out food shopping at the moment, then plan ahead to manage how you’ll purchase your necessary supplies.

If online deliveries aren’t available, you can either ask someone from your household to visit the supermarket with you for support, or provide them with a list and ask them to go for you, collecting what you need. Have back-up options in case anything is out of stock, so that you don’t end up being without your safe foods. Try to shop well in advance of Christmas Day so that you feel prepared – however, don’t panic too much about the shops closing as it will only be for one day, so you don’t need to create extra stress trying to stockpile foods.

You can also plan in some healthy activities to look forward to, with gentle outdoor exercise such as walking being very effective for good mental health. Don’t pressure yourself to use exercise to try and make up for any indulgences, though. Keep a nice balance between getting outside and sitting indoors ruminating on guilt over enjoying a treat.

Form a Plan To Manage Stressful Situations

It’s completely normal to feel like Christmas isn’t always (or ever) the perfect time it’s made out to be. None of us are living through a fairytale festive season straight from a greeting card, as there are many demands to contend with – from gift-buying to arranging house guests, Christmas dinners to spending time away from the home. 

Rest assured that if you’re feeling nervous about any of this, such as spending more time with family or preparing for consuming the most anticipated meal of the year, you’re not the only one. Write down all of the potentially stressful situations you might face on each day of Christmas, and note a way to make those circumstances better for yourself. This could mean turning down invites, even if it’s only to a Zoom call or pub trip where people will be drinking, if they’re going to be too distressing for you and aren’t with close family or friends you want to prioritise. Suggesting buffets instead of sit-down meals could be another solution, when you’re scheduled for celebrations with people.

On Christmas Day, this is unlikely to be achievable, so just try to treat it like you would any meal on a normal day. Being aware of where the sources of tension will lie, ahead of each day, will help you to reduce the discomfort you feel and increase your sense of control over what will happen.

If you’re worried that you have an eating disorder, Priory can help you to lessen your symptoms, both in the short-term and further down the line. If any mental health condition isn’t treated in a timely manner, it can have serious long-term effects on your health and happiness. We’ve treated many people with various eating disorders and helped them to lead a better life, with significant relief from their former challenges. There’s every reason that you can get better and go on to live out a more fulfilling future too.

Help with Eating Disorder at Priory

If you’re worried that you have an eating disorder, Priory can help you to lessen your symptoms, both in the short-term and further down the line. If any condition isn’t treated in a timely manner, it can have serious long-term effects on your health and happiness. Our highly-qualified experts treat people struggling various eating disorders every single day, helping them to lead a better life and relieve themselves from their former challenges.

You don't have to continue to suffer with an eating disorder. Professional help for eating disorders is available with Priory. Contact us today know that there’s every reason that you can get better and go on to live out a more fulfilling future too.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding eating disorder treatment, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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