The Center for Eating Disorders Blog

Tips for Overcoming Holiday Stress and Anxiety – Part I: The Food

As Thanksgiving arrives and the holiday season officially begins, figuring out how to navigate social situations, particularly those involving high levels of stress, is necessary to maintaining a positive, healthy outlook. One of the most difficult areas to manage is the social eating aspect of the holiday season. Thanksgiving, a day almost entirely devoted to food in some households, can be especially stressful for people who struggle with eating on a daily basis such as those with eating disorders or anyone with disordered eating behaviors. With that in mind, we came up with some tips to help you make this Thanksgiving a positive one.  

One of the most helpful things that you can do for yourself is to plan ahead. Having a solid plan in place can prevent foreseeable things from becoming a bigger issue than they need to be. Your plan should be specific to your own needs depending on your individual triggers and whether you are hosting an event, traveling to see family or celebrating in a non-traditional way, but here are a few helpful hints and ideas that can help everyone enjoy the holiday…

Part I: When it comes to the FOOD:

  • Skipping breakfast is never a good idea for anyone. Starting the morning with a solid meal will help provide you with clarity of mind and a better awareness of your body’s hunger and satiety cues throughout the day.
  • It is helpful to maintain structure with regard to your meals particularly if you will be having your meals away from your home environment. If you are staying with others, letting them know that you will be eating three regular meals and a snack allows them to plan accordingly and can provide you with some helpful accountability.  That being said, remember that eating “treats” and “extras” is a normal and healthy part of the holidays so be sure that your plan includes flexibility in this area.
  • Depending on when your holiday meal is scheduled, you may also want to be flexible with the timing of your snack. For example, if there is a larger period of time between breakfast and lunch, eating your snack midway between that time will help keep your body and your mind nourished and balanced.
  • Remember that there are no “good” or “bad” foods, even at a holiday meal, but be prepared for others to make comments about food, weight gain/loss and diets during holiday gatherings.  Decide how you will respond if this happens. A range of responses could include a silent mantra that you say to yourself in your head or a public comment that educates others about normal eating and positive body image.  Ask yourself which type of response will be most benefical for your own personal well-being and use that as a guide.
  • When its time for the meal, try to sit near people with whom you feel comfortable and supported. If this isn’t possible, try to avoid sitting directly by those who will make the meal more challenging.

*Are you hosting?  Use crafty name cards to subtly “announce” seating arrangements that place your positive support people near you and your most triggering family members further away during the meal.

To get more information on portion sizes and how to have a balanced holiday meal, take a look at Nutrition Tips for a Healthy and Happy Holiday!

Check back tomorrow for “Part II: When it comes to the STRESS”

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