22 Things People With Eating Disorders Want Others to Know About the Holidays

For someone living with an eating disorder — no matter how far he or she is on a recovery journey — day-to-day eating can be daunting. The holidays pose extra challenges with work parties and family gatherings that sometimes seem to revolve around food.

So, we teamed up with the National Eating Disorder Association to ask people who live with an eating disorder what they wish others understood about the holidays.

Here’s what they want you to know:

1. “It’s not that I don’t want to come to the family dinner. It’s not that I don’t love you. While it may be relaxing and fun for you — for me, it’s a battleground. Every bite comes with my brain yelling at me. I’m trying to smile through every bite.”

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2. “Just because I’ve been in active recovery for years, doesn’t mean I don’t constantly fight my disordered thoughts, especially when people are constantly talking about eating — then I keep picturing myself eating non-stop, which scares me.”

3. “Just because I’m doing well and at a healthy weight doesn’t mean my disorder is ‘cured.’ Eating in front of people is still hard and embarrassing. Even though I’ve been in recovery for two years I still struggle. Especially around the holidays.”

4. “Please don’t get angry with me when eating disorder thoughts and behaviors are highly present. I’m more than my eating disorder. We are two distinct beings united by heavy chains. When you get angry at me, I feel guilty and retreat inside my mind.”

5. “It’s hard to do all the things people find fun around the holidays when you have an eating disorder screaming in your head every moment.”

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6. “I wish my friends and family understood that the holidays make me feel pressured to eat food I’m not necessarily comfortable eating. If I don’t eat what everyone else is eating, I get asked a million questions and it makes me feel like a spectacle.”

7. “The holidays are extremely stressful. When you say, ‘It’s the holidays, you deserve to have just one,’ it’s not that simple.”

8. “Even though it’s the holidays, commenting on food, weight, diets, anyone’s body appearance or eating habits are still off limits and very triggering.”

9. “Talking about your post-holiday diet is super triggering. Calling the holiday food ‘bad’ or ‘fattening’ is triggering. Talking about how much you’re going to ‘stuff your face,’ or how ‘fat’ you’re going to be, or that you wore your ‘fat’ pants… please, just don’t.”

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10. “I struggled because my family didn’t understand that during holiday celebration or meal, you should not bring up the eating disorder. Don’t ask me why I’m not eating the stuffing. Don’t tell me I should eat the dessert. You just need to love me. Give me my space and have hope that by next year, maybe I’ll be in a better place.”

11. “It’s the holiday, but for me and food it’s one more day we’re getting along. I’m not going to mess up the journey I’m on to make you feel more comfortable.”

12. “Stop telling me to be happy. Let me feel my feelings. Ignoring them is part of what brought me to an eating disorder in the first place.”

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13. “It hurts every single time someone refers to holiday weight gain or how they’ll have to hit the gym in the New Year.”

14. “During the holidays, I wish for others not to judge, but to simply understand. I wish for patience, a touch on the shoulder and for us to talk about things other than my eating disorder. It’s not about wanting attention, it’s about just wanting that acceptance and support… to know that those around you love you regardless.”

15. “Even when it appears I’m handling things really well, I’m still fighting the disordered thoughts. They have not gone away, but I’ve learned how to get through them. Holidays are emotional times with family and food — anytime I’m not at my normal emotional baseline, things are harder to handle.”

16. “When you go to a party with lots of food, the urge to binge or the fear that you will is scary and overwhelming.”

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17. “Just because it’s a holiday, where you’re expected to be cheerful, doesn’t mean the eating disorder or other illnesses we struggle with can just disappear.”

18. “A holiday is just another day filled with struggles that need to be overcome. It becomes even more difficult because you’re surrounded by people you rarely see and strange foods you rarely eat. It gets exhausting ‘playing’ a part. Please be kind and patient so we can all get through the difficult challenges together.”

19. “If we’re looking sad or angry, it’s not because we want to spoil the holidays. It’s because it’s really hard for us to face a Christmas dinner table. We’re trying our best.”

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20. “I truly want to enjoy all the holiday food without feeling guilty, but it’s extremely difficult.”

21. “When social interactions become more about the food than the interaction, it becomes very difficult for me to think outside of numbers and exercise. Please be patient with me.”

22. “Treatment taught me to deal with everyday eating, but it can hardly prepare me for the holidays and all the extra occasions that revolve around food. Don’t be offended or worried if I turn down one cookie or an office party; I just need to keep my head in the right place. I want to enjoy the holidays, too.”

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*Some answers have been edited and shortened.

Related: 5 Comments to Avoid on Thanksgiving if Someone You Love Has an Eating Disorder 


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