BlogCoping with Christmas when you have an eating disorder

Coping with Christmas when you have an eating disorder

By The Options Wellbeing Team


Christmas can be challenging with eating disorders

We run courses in partnership with tastelife, which is a supportive and educational charity that informs about eating disorders.

It and the organisation Beating Eating Disorders have put together some helpful hints and tips for the festivities. And we’ve selected a few to share with you below.

Coping at Christmas

Not everyone is the same. Things that some people find really useful, may cause others to feel anxious or stressed.

But planning together, talking about concerns and figuring out strategies that work for you, and the people you’ll be spending Christmas with, can help.

Overwhelmed by the encouragement to ‘indulge’?

It’s difficult to get away from food during the yuletide. The nation’s obsession with festive fare may create additional pressure to eat or cause increased worry about bingeing.

Christmas also brings with it changes in routine – the house may be full of snacks, or there may be pressure to ‘save ourselves for Christmas dinner’. Unusual eating patterns and timings can occur too.

How to help reduce your anxieties

  • Plan your festive meal in advance. Have a practice before Christmas Day and talk through your concerns with friends and family.
  • Agreeing food choices, what time meals will be served, portion sizes and who will be there, will help you prepare for the day, and then you’ll know exactly what to expect.
  • Don’t put everything out all at once – a ladened table may increase anxiety. Instead consider serving your meals away from the table – you may then feel you’re not being ‘watched’.
  • If everyone else is serving themselves, it may be easier to sit next to someone supportive, then you can copy their portion size.
  • Having background music and other distractions while you’re eating, like conversation that doesn’t involve food, can help.
  • The urge to binge, or to get rid of food eaten, is most likely to come an hour or so after eating. It’s best to be with others during this time, to open presents, to participate in a game or watch a favourite film to help take your mind off food. These activities can be planned beforehand too, so you know what to expect.
  • Move away from the dining table once the meal has finished – continue the socialising elsewhere.

Supporting someone with an eating disorder

  • They may need encouragement if they’re struggling to eat. This can be done by quietly and sensitively saying something like: “I can see you’re really struggling, is there anything I can do to help you?” or “Would it help to talk about what’s troubling you?”
  • Lots of people say that feeling rushed can increase anxiety; however, gentle, sensitive reminders about time can be helpful.

Getting help and support at Christmas

If you or anyone else is struggling, the organisation Beating Eating Disorders has a dedicated helpline open 4pm – midnight from December 24 to January 3.

Sometimes its lines are busy. If you can’t get through immediately, please do try again or use its one-to-one web chat.

If you, or someone else is in immediate danger, please contact 999 or the Samaritans on 116 123.

If you would like to sign up for a free place on our next tastelife eight-session course in the new year, please get in touch by emailing us on or calling us on 023 8063 0219 today. The course is open to sufferers of all types of eating disorder, and those who care for them.

Attendees are invited to come along for free, there is no barrier to access for this course.

However, those who can make a £40 suggested donation to the charity to cover all eight sessions are asked to do so.