Tips for Christmas Day with an eating disorder

As covered in my Christmas Survival Guide, having an eating disorder at Christmas can be an overwhelming time. There’s lots of food around and an expectation to indulge and eat outside your usual routine.

Have you got a strategy for Christmas Day eating? Here are my top tips for managing on the big day:

Have a safer breakfast

Having 3 meals in your day where you feel out of your comfort zone can be incredibly overwhelming. Starting the day off with a meal that you are used to eating can help you feel calmer and more comfortable. Plan what you will have and take it with you if you will be away.

Unless you really fancy that festive breakfast of course, in which case go for it an safer light meal later on.

Utilise snacks

If lunch is going to be later (which is quite usual on Christmas day), then do have a snack or two. Sticking to 3 meals and 3 snacks in your day is really important, even on Christmas day. Consider asking someone to help you judge your snacks and plan these out. Some Christmas snack ideas can be found here. Your snacks might include Christmassy foods like clementines and mince pies or nuts, or could be “everyday” foods e.g. crackers, veg and hummus. Don’t be afraid to move your meal order around. It is important to still nourish your body and honour your hunger too.

It is also a good idea to have a light snack before bed (cereal and milk, cheese and crackers, fruit and yoghurt) if this helps to support your hunger levels, you may feel like you have eaten more in the daytime, but regular meals and snacks are so key.

How to manage at the Christmas Meal

Try to prepare as much as you can in advance for the Christmas meal and think of tips to help you cope, this could include:

  • – Finding out what food will be prepared in advance and discussing with your support people what you are going to aim to eat. You don’t have to have it all.
  • – Consider asking for food to be moved off the table after you have served yourselves to help minimise any anxiety.
  • – Having some music on or distractions at the table such as a quiz.
  • – Sit with someone who you know well and who will support you through the meal.
  • – Have a safe place to move to afterwards, don’t feel you need to stay at the table. Maybe a sofa to curl up on, but do keep yourself safe
  • – If you have the urge to purge then try staying with company and away from the bathroom for 20 minutes, know that the urge will pass.
  • – Have a relaxing activity planned for after the meal to help manage any thoughts and anxiety.
  • – Having a list of conversation starters to divert the talk away from food.

Enjoying the fun foods comfortably

Choose what fun foods you are going to enjoy, or push yourself to include. This is a normal part of food and Christmas. Whilst it can feel scary and provoke anxiety, a key part of recovery is eating those fear foods too. Planning it in advance may help you to feel more in control – think about the foods you really want to include, at what meal, who to have them with and ask for support from those around you.

It’s ok to say no to some foods, but also important to also enjoy some fun foods. Find your balance between taking care of yourself and enjoying the festivities.

Managing expectations

Keep using your usual tools and strategies to help manage uncomfortable thoughts and anxiety. Don’t let Christmas routines or others change your normal coping mechanisms -these are here to help you. Journalling, meditation, breath work, the use of positive affirmations and reframing thoughts can all be good strategies to use.

Remember, you don’t have to feel happy all the time – it’s okay to be sad, frustrated or anxious. Christmas can be challenging!

Extra strategies

Consider a practice run beforehand: this could involve visualising what you’ll eat or trying some of the foods

Arrange to keep some foods off the main table -by keeping some foods and dishes on the kitchen counters, you can reduce some of the overwhelm

With this in mind, be kind to yourself and don’t expect to have a “perfect” day (Christmases rarely are!). Use these tips to help improve your Christmas and support your road to recovery.

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