Planning for Christmas with an eating disorder

Last updated: 25/01/2023

As we approach Christmas 2020, it’s important to acknowledge that this can be a difficult time for people with eating disorders in any year, not to mention during a pandemic. The change in routine and expectations can raise a range of challenges for everyone involved. So, it can be helpful at this stage to begin to consider and plan for some of these challenges and to open the conversation at home regarding situations that might be difficult in the run up to Christmas.

Tips for Planning ahead:

  1. Think about and agree a holiday schedule with those you are spending Christmas with. You may not be getting up at the same time as you would during school term or on workdays, but it is useful to have a time to be up by and keep this consistent throughout the holiday. This can support helpful sleep routines as well as keeping meal and snack times in a predictable routine.

  2. The holidays can be a nice time to unwind, however too much free time can be difficult to manage. For some people, not having something to do or a focus can lead to increased eating disorder thoughts and anxiety. Make an activities plan for over the holidays – this might include reading, watching films, visiting relatives or craft activities. Try not to over load the plan – aim for one or two activities a day to provide some structure. Planning ahead will ensure you have the materials you need such as a book or craft materials ready, and this means the activity is more likely to be completed.

  3. Discuss and develop a coping plan for any upcoming situations you or your loved one with an eating disorder might find difficult. This can include how they and you will notice if things are becoming too much, what might be helpful to have in those situations – e.g. a self soothe kit, a plan for where the young person can go to take a break and regulate themselves, an agreed code word for if the young person feels they need to leave.

  4. When planning visits to other people during the holiday season, consider the timing of snacks and meals. It is useful to have a range of snacks packed and easy to eat on the go, and a contingency plan for when visits run over time.

Managing Christmas dinner:

  1. Treat meals on and around Christmas day as routinely as possible – complete your meal planning process as you would normally including what and how much is to be served. The plate- by-plate’ approach to main meals can be very useful if eating in someone elses house.

  2. During the meal, it can be helpful to start conversations about general topics and light topics to help distract from anxieties at the table.

  3. Once dinner is over, shift the focus on to other activities like playing games or watching a family film.

  4. If other family members are visiting, parents can find it helpful to prepare them a little so they are aware to avoid questions about weight or appetite.

Managing emotions:

  1. The change in routine, increased social activity and increased focus on food can all contribute to feeling out of control. You may notice yourself feeling emotional ups and downs and have more difficulty managing that. It is important to remind yourself that this is to be expected –acknowledging and validating that this is not easy can help you feel less overwhelmed and pressured.  

  2. Increase self care activities during the holiday season- check out our self care tips section on this App


Below are a range of helpful resources that might help you to continue to plan ahead. We wish you a very happy and healthy Christmas and take care