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Eating Disorders, Holidays, and Stress

With the holidays approaching, the stress levels of those coping with eating disorders (as well as their immediate family members) are rapidly rising. Holidays represent time with family and friends, celebrating, eating special foods, and basically being out of our normal routines. All of which create huge amounts of anxiety for those who are coping with eating disorders and weight issues.

I can recall when I was anorexic, feeling very anxious during the holidays—Christmas time was particularly scary because of all the holiday cookies, cakes, heavier meals, and festivities. And in my loud and loving family, someone was guaranteed to comment on my what I was eating or not eating, how much weight I lost or gained, and my appearance.

Holidays often mean that our regular routines are disrupted—we are eating at a different time, in a different place (perhaps a relative's home), or worse yet—a restaurant. And if anyone knows we are having issues, well meaning relatives and friends will often take notice of how much or little we are eating. Unfortunate yet well intended remarks such as “You look great” translate to “I gained weight” in the mind of a recovering anorexic.

Food buffets, family dinners, and holiday parties strike panic into the heart of most people who are struggling with weight issues. Attempts to avoid eating or avoiding attending at all are usually met with anger and frustration from family members and friends.

What used to be happy and festive is often dreaded and avoided. It is a very difficult time. I tell all of my patients that the goal is to get through the holidays through effective stress management and family interventions. For some, it helps to let family and friends know in advance that you are coping with some food issues and that their support and understanding will be much appreciated if they do not focus or comment on what you are doing and your appearance. When they know you are under professional care they will often cooperate with what we request. I have many coping strategies that can help you or your loved one get through the holidays with less stress and more enjoyment. Please give me a call or send an email to discuss how I may be of assistance.

Dr. Rollings

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