Recovery Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season

Well, here we are. November 2. We’ve officially entered…the Holiday Season.

I swear, the Trick or Treaters hadn’t even left the driveway before the first Christmas commercial came on TV.

What’s the heck?! Eager much??

But anyways. If there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that for someone in EDrecovery, navigating Thanksgiving and Christmas, and all the festivities and parties that go with it, can be daunting. Staying strong in your eating disorder recovery can be a real test of strength.

I have such vivid memories of the anxiety I felt, heading into a season where everything was about food, and sharing meals and holiday parties.

Back when I was battling anorexia, I used to dread this time of year.

If one more person offers me a friggin Christmas cookie or candy cane, I’m going to bust a cap!!

But now, being in my tenth year of recovery, I have come to embrace this season. And it truly is my favorite time of year, again.

It has taken me a long time to get to where I am, and I have certainly learned a lot along the way.

So here are some tips for those navigating recovery, and also for loved ones, to get a glimpse into what your dear one is going through.

1) Realize that people are going to say dumb things.

Here’s the thing: an eating disorder is difficult to navigate to all parties involved. And the fact is, sometimes, well meaning relatives or adults can say some pretty stupid things. And the thing about recovery from anorexia is that, yes – your body changes. Your progress is visible to people. And that’s a good thing! But not everyone knows how to react…tactfully. I remember going to a doctor’s appointment right after I got home from inpatient, and my male GI doc goes, “Wow, looks like you found McDonald’s!” 


People are going to say dumb things. And just let it roll off you. You’re beautiful. You’re healthy. And you’re reclaiming your life.

2) Give yourself permission to take a breather.

There can be a lot of stress and togetherness during the holidays. And sometimes, you just need to take a minute to yourself. And that’s okay. Know your limits. If you feel like, “I can’t take another minute of Aunt Ruth talking about how relieved she is that I’m doing better” just politely excuse yourself, find a quiet corner of the house, or step outside, and take a little break. Deep breath. I am loved. I am worthy. Jesus, be with me right now.

3) It’s just a cookie.

Thanksgiving and Christmas time are full of delicious goodies. That’s the long and short of it. Pumpkin spice lattes, Christmas cookies, eggnog, hot chocolate. For someone in recovery from an eating disorder, thinking about consuming those things makes them go into a cold sweat. But you know what? They’re delicious. And they’re not going to hurt you. Having a cookie or a treat in moderation is part of a healthy diet. Enjoy it! Partake in the festivities! You’re worth it.

4) The Power of Positive Thinking.

Sometimes, thinking about going to a party can bring on the anxiety. Before hand, close your eyes and envision yourself having a blast. You’re talking, dancing, wearing something that makes you feel confident, and truly enjoying yourself. Embody that girl of your dreams! Channel her spirit!

5) Have a support person.

Sometimes it can help to have a confidant at the party, with whom you can share your trepidations. Just give them a heads up that you could need a little extra support at the outing. Knowing that someone is on the same page and knows what you’re going through goes a long way.

6) Remember the reason for the season.

Focus on the people you love. The less you’re thinking about yourself, the more you will enjoy the best season of the year. Honestly, at the end of the day, people love you for who you are. Not what you look like. Not what you’re wearing. Not how you perceive your body to be. People love you for you. Love them back.

7) Pray your way through it.

Finally, there really is power in prayer. Sharing with Jesus your fears and anxieties and allowing Him to love you is the best thing you can do to navigate a difficult situation. Accept His peace. And remember that your worth comes from Him.

This is the best season of the year, and remember that you’re alive to enjoy it. Keep that in perspective. You’ve chosen life. You’ve reclaimed your health. You’ve won the battle, and sadly, not everyone does. Remember how blessed you are.

You survived. Celebrate that.

For more recovery advice, and a guided recovery companion journal, you can order my book, Bloom: A Journal by BeautyBeyondBones by clicking on the link below.

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154 responses to “Recovery Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season”

  1. People say dumb things?? Say it isn’t so! Congrats on your success beating down the ED. You go spank those holidays like they deserve.

  2. You are so beautiful, and pretty too although that means so very little. The beauty of your heart reflected in your writing warms mine and as ever, keep it up. Jesus looks so good on you!!! I love you. Hugs!!! ❤

  3. People are always saying dumb things to people in recovery – who are pregnant – who’s spouse is in the military- LOL. I’ve herd some doozies and no matter how many times I say I’m going to zing them back, I never have. The best thing has been to just walk away without saying anything. Truly. It doesn’t hurt you as much and it deflated what they’ve said. ❤️ Happy you are healed enough to enjoy this season. It’s such a black and white one – either people love it or hate it. I’m thankful to be able to love it. ❤️❤️

  4. This was another eye opener for me who has little knowledge about anorexia. Should I encounter such a person in my future, I’ll know exactly how to love on them and make them feel beautiful because you are showing me how!

    • Aw, thank you Ms. Wanda! Yeah, it is definitely a difficult situation. I mean, people want to be supportive and loving. And let’s face it, when you gain 40 pounds (to a healthy weight) after being emaciated, your body will look different! And that’s a good thing! haha And people want to say something, because they WERE worried and are now relieved, but it’s hard to talk about weight gain to a formerly anorexic person without it coming out in a potentially awkward way. haha – i’m feeling awkward now, just trying to explain it! haha I hope you’re catching my drift haha ANYWHO! thank you so much for taking the time to read. i really appreciate it 🙂 big hugs to you xox

      • No need for awkwardness — GOD is using you…
        Isaiah 61:3 (KJV)
        3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

  5. My wife and I have found the best way to survive the holiday season is to celebrate as little as possible.

    Sure, we have Thanksgiving, but it’s totally a (small) family affair. If my daughter comes to visit then, it’s definitely *her* holiday.

    Since my wife is Jewish, we don’t celebrate Christmas at all. It took quite some time for my relatives to accept this, but the protests have long since died down. It’s just amazing how much less stress there is in December.

    That said, we do celebrate Hannukah but it’s a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar (no, it’s not the “Jewish Christmas”). We let our grandson light the candles for each of the eight nights. We even have a little children’s book on the holiday my two-year-old granddaughter loves.

    No New Years. We go to bed early the night of the 31st. 2018 will roll around whether I’m awake to see it or not.

    All that said, I don’t have an eating disorder, so I don’t face the challenges you do, but it seems as if you have a pretty good survival kit going for you. Just imagine how far above it all God is, so this too will blow over.

    • Hi James, thank you for sharing this. that sounds like a really special tradition that you and your family share. I’m sure that means a lot to your grandson. thanks for your thoughts! Hugs and love xox

  6. This is so inspiring. I’ve struggled with food and my weight for almost six years and I have the same daunting/dreadful feeling every holiday season when it seems like you can’t escape all the food, so reading this was EXACTLY what I needed. And the reminder to just pray is always helpful as well! Congratulations on going through the recovery process and sticking to it as well as you have. I hope to one day get to the place you are in and be able to share what I have learned as a result. What you are doing helps people even if it doesn’t always seem that way, and this definitely helped me.

    • aw thank you so much!! and thanks for sharing your story. yeah – prayer changes things for sure. you got this, friend. i always just remind myself, just do the next right thing 🙂 hope you’re having a great night. big hugs to you xox

  7. Thank you for this; so many great affirmations and truthful, insightful words. I’m sharing this with my mom in the hopes she finds something to help her through this part of the season I know she dreads.
    You’re a strong woman and I hope you’re proud of yourself!
    Have a blessed holiday season and Christmas (just in case—early we’ll wishes are better than late! Though late is better than none 😉).

  8. People say dumb things about most things. Reality is this is a hard time is year for many. I don’t like this time is year because of the commercialism around it. I hope you’re goes well ☺️ xo

    • true that! yeah, it’s really sad how commercial Christmas has become. it’s nice to know that there are still people out there who remember why we are celebrating. thanks for stopping by 🙂 big hugs xo

  9. These tips are so true! I used to have a lot of anxiety around the holidays because I knew I had to eat with my family, so they wouldn’t get suspicious of anything. I used to not eat anything the entire day just so I would feel good about myself if I had to eat something later. I really love tip #3 because a cookie is just a cookie, and it won’t ruin anything. I’m glad I’m in a good mindset now where I realize cookies won’t ruin me 🙂

  10. Happy 10 years!

    There is so much good advice and good news here! Reading all of this and having witnessed how far you’ve come in the almost two years I’ve been reading your articles makes me just…feel so good! I’m very happy for you and proud of you!

    A few extra thoughts at Patreon.

  11. As always you have an amazing way to share your story and help others. I am grateful you are in your tenth your of recovering. Very proud of you for sharing this with all of us. Thank you.

  12. Obeserving the seasons of the church meaning making Advent mean something as a preparation for Jesus/Christmas coming is a great way to put order into chaos. Decorating your house as the season progresses is a good way to reduce stress. Remember that Thanksgiving comes before any of the garland and tinsel and trees should come about.

    • Hey Tony! Thanks so much for this. That’s so true – order in the Chaos. And I agree! Christmas prep begins after Turkeyday! Haha thanks for stopping by. Hugs and love xox

  13. You are wise beyond your years! This is good advice for anyone during the holidays, not just those in recovery, but those with mental health issues, and the dysfunctional family situations, that make us dread the holidays!

  14. Caralyn, Thank you, those are very effective ways to cope. As you know I am recovering from addiction and the only one that does not apply to me is the, “it’s just a cookie” I always have a plan a phone number or five. I also must give myself permission to leave if it gets too intense with the merriment. These really do not apply to me much anymore as God has removed the craving and it no longer is of any interest. Celebrating 19 years this month. The solution is found in a continually growing relationship with God

    • Hi friend! Thank you so much for this thoughtful response. That’s a great thing to do to give yourself that permission. Wow 19 years! That’s so awesome. Congrats! Yes! It comes from God! Hugs and love xox

  15. I liked this wonderful observation, “Focus on the people you love. The less you’re thinking about yourself, the more you will enjoy the best season of the year.” Good advice for all times of the y ear too. 🙂

    • Hey Ian! thanks so much. yes! my mom always taught me that the best way to get yourself out of a “funk” is to do something nice for someone else. there’s just something about thinking about another person that makes life better 🙂 thanks for stopping by! Hugs and love xox

  16. I’ve battled with my weight so much for 12 years now but I had a very active job & social life which allowed me to stay skinny more or less according to my peers.

    Now though, I’ve been having chronic dizziness for 3+ years and no doc has been able to help me figure this out so I’ve been so sedentary. I’m always sitting down because I’m so dizzy and any normal movements sets the vertigo off. I’ve gained so much weight and I feel like crap about myself. I can’t fit into any of my clothes anymore and I hate the way I look now.

    Like you mentioned, the festive seasons are the worst for me. Due to my condition, people come over to visit me instead since movement is tough for me. And they offer and bring snacks for me which I absolutely love yet hate because now I don’t have an active lifestyle to get it all out of my system. I know they are trying to comfort me but I feel so much worse after I eat them. It really sucks. I eat healthy home cooked meals and control my portions so much but because I can barely move without spinning and wanting to throw up it doesn’t really help much. And when I try not to eat at all, I feel so lightheaded which makes the dizziness worse so nothing works. 🙁

  17. Thank you so much for this post!! I’ve really been dreading this Christmas season after such a difficult time getting through all the bad food last year and not having meltdowns over it. But maybe this year it can be a little better ow that I’m committed to recovering. Thank you so much!

  18. Man! What is your G.I. doc named Gregory House?! That’s really poor bedside manner. These are awesome tips and really important for people to remember during this time of year. Hope you get to enjoy the holidays

  19. Thank you for sharing this!!
    You are such an inspiration about getting through the little things in life in general!
    The holidays (although I’m in Canada) are difficult for me; as they bring up a lot of family separation struggles and feeling torn in a million directions-it really takes me for an emotional roller-coaster ride-on top of my health issues with MS. So, thank you again for sharing this; it is so helpful and calming 🙂
    Congrats on 10 years also! !
    Take care xx


  20. I can only imagine what going through the holiday season is like for someone with ED. I like that you saved the best for last in your ways to prepare – pray through it.
    It may seem like a cruel joke on God’s part that He set up so much of His relationship with us and the celebration of His gift of life with food and feasting, but it is His truth!
    The eating and feasting will be as it should be, not as it can be for someone with ED.
    That’s how I look at the holiday season – as a glimpse, a hint, a foretaste, of the Feast to come. The true Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, all wrapped up in one, eternal wedding Feast!
    I think that’ll be the topic of an upcoming podcast!

  21. Hi Caralyn. You are awesome. You are beautiful. You are so thoughtful of others. Writing a post like this, especially now when you know what too many people are experiencing, is so helpful. And it demonstrates the Love of Jesus Christ the flows from you continually. For the Love of Jesus to be seen in a life, as His Love is in you, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit Of God is guiding you, and you are allowing Him and obedient to His leading. Add to the opening line, You are Amazing.
    I am forwarding your post to the friend of mine, who I also gave your book to, who has a Daughter in Law suffering with ED.
    Thanks for your desire and willingness to help so many people. You are a Blessing.

  22. I’ve struggled with ED for most of my adult life, and finally got some proper help this year. Your post is going to stay in my inbox as a reminder over the holiday season, you’re such an inspiration! It makes me sad that I should be dreading the holiday season instead of getting excited for it, but as you say, keep praying and working on it and I’ll get there in the end. Thank you for sharing your story, it’s so great to have the experience of someone to know you’re not alone.

  23. You go girl. Food disorders are a cruel beast and some of the most difficult problems for patients to solve. Most issues are internal and family members are a key to success or failure. I love your tips here and how not only focus on how the outside can affect your mindset, but also how you can personally take a stance.

    Congrats on the 10 years. You can be an inspiration to others fighting the same battle.

  24. These are also great tips for people who aren’t battling ED. Thanks for sharing! I am a complete Scrooge when it comes to the holiday season. My favorite time of the year is Fall and it seems like it gets pushed to the side earlier and earlier each passing year. I am not full on Christmas til the day after Thanksgiving. Ha! Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

  25. WOW!!!!! I am so happy for you on your 10th year. You truly are an inspiration, you have accomplished so much and being a prayerful person you are surrounded by the heavenlies ensuring your continued success. Success comes through hard work, determination and a willingness to surrender and make changes in yourself . You are a true testament that everyone can do it, well done!!!, if you could climb such a high mountain, like you have, you can do anything. God bless you abundantly
    (Proverbs 3:5-6 _ Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight)

  26. This is so right!! And YES, I saw the same you did!! We don’t get many trick or treaters in our neighborhood and my kids no longer go. So I was hangin in the candlelight, watching something and there it was, a Christmas add. I think people in general would be able to channel more enjoyment of the holidays if they took it more gradually in its time. If we didn’t ram Christmas down throats NOW, if we actually gave THANKS for Thanksgiving this month, and held off the Christmas rush til December. I’m not saying don’t Christmas shop early. Some people have to. But if the stores and the adds didn’t push push push, as well as products in stores. Take a more gradual pace, like it ONCE WAS. We just might enjoy it more for its time, and savor it. It was nice, on Halloween night, to also see a Pillsbury add that was Thanksgiving based. You have great things to say about all the aspects you brought up in this topic. God Bless you every day!! God bless us all in the wake of Texas. Let us all pray for them and for all of us as a nation. Hugs and love!!

      • You know what would be cute? You know how there is so much more “marketing of stuff” from the classic holiday tv specials? They have all the little toys of characters from Rudolph, and etc… You go into Walmart or Target and they have, fully licensed, “The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” that you can set up on your table top, which is a rendition of the famous needle-losing skimpy little sprout complete with the one ornament that Charlie attempts to put on it, in the classic special. I think that either Denny’s or I-Hop, who start marketing “holiday flavors” of their breakfast fare should jump in!! I can see the add now. — COME ON IN DURING NOVEMBER FOR THE CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING FEAST!! 2 pieces of toast, with 3 sides; pretzel sticks, popcorn, and jelly beans!! $2.99 NOW AT DENNYS!! I can see kids ordering it!! lololol Big smiles at you every day!!

      • I know how hard it is to deal with some people during the holidays!! We once had some rotten people that we had to deal with who would spread their toxic all over our joy. Its sad to have that in the presence of what are supposed to be happy occasions. Luckily such toxic is over. I hope those who ask you such awkward questions decrease their need to do so!! Love and hugs!!

  27. Great post with easy to understand steps to recovery.

    I suspect that a little thought can help to apply this advice to recovery from addictions as well.

    Keep up the great work of your blog 👍

  28. Congrats on your recovery! So much of you write is relatable to anyone facing challenges, especially mental health challenges.
    And thanks for liking my blog!
    (Midnight Marauder)

  29. BBB, I have to tell you that when it comes to those who those who are “well-meaning,” I just remember what Ozzy Osbourne wrote in 1981: “Good intentions pave the way to hell.
    Don’t you worry when you hear me sing.Tonight, tonight
    Is it just a rhapsody
    Or am I right?
    Tonight, tonight
    Is it all a mystery?
    I just can’t fight no more.”

    People should just keep their mouths shut-and I say exactly that…YOU know WHY I say that.

      • I made the mistake of going to church-I’m done.

        I don’t appreciate being condemned for fighting depression. Jesus didn’t judge.

      • If what I have been told about Christ is correct (I know He was dead, because I know the mechanisms behind death by crucifixion, I know what happened to Roman guards who slept while on duty, and I know Roman soldiers couldn’t be bought by the conquered-and we haven’t even discussed the Shroud yet), those responsible for what happened on Sunday will be on the left (Matthew 25:41-46).

        What is most ironically sad is that I blasted Black Sabbath’s final release for at least two hours. Metal has been my spirit guide since I was made suicidal before my 13th birthday.

        Watching all of this must break your heart, because you are a Christian who TRULY TRIES to live out the Great Commission and I can tell you practice Jude 1:22 nearly everyday of your life.

        Thank you, BBB.

        THAT calmed me down.

        You probably understand because you are fighting your own battle, for which I am quite sure you have been judged by the Church. Thus, your compassion.

        I wish I had read your message earlier.

  30. I am currently suffering and terrified about the impending festivities. Thank you so much for this blog and all your others. This month, I sought out treatment, so I am beginning my recovery journey now (I hope). I’ve just started a blog to chronicle my experiences – I hope I can do even a fraction of the good you have done. Thank you so much.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so glad that you’ve sought treatment. That’s seriously the best decision in the world. Know that I️ am praying for you and cheering you on. You got this. Hugs and love xox

  31. Thanks for sharing YOUR STORY! Having myself completed the Celebrate Recovery program I am learning to speak up and speak out. To be an advocate for others! I blog about my recovery daily. Would you humbly consider following me to help spread the news about Celebrate Recovery to so many who need it? Thanks in advance!

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