Facing the holiday season with an eating disorder can be challenging. The changes to normal routine and the social expectations associated with this time of year can be overwhelming and cause increased anxiety. Food is often a central part of holiday celebrations and this additional focus on food and sharing food with others can be tricky to navigate.

As carers, we need to support our loved ones to stay on the recovery path during the holiday period. Parents in the strive community have shared a few tips on how they support their loved one during this time.

Be understanding and sensitive

Our loved ones may respond more positively when we offer empathy instead of advice. It may even help you as a carer, as you will know exactly where you stand and what role to play instead of having to guess.

Try out a few of these phrases:

  • ‘I can see this is really difficult for you, how can I help you?’
  • ‘I am here for you. Let’s talk about how I can support you more.’
  • ‘What are you feeling up to doing right now?’


You may wish to create a ‘comfort kit’ for your loved one to turn to when they’re feeling anxious. You know what they would like best, whether it’s a comfort item, calming playlist to listen to, a book to read, or a journal in which to write. It may help to pull out the comfort kit when they are feeling especially anxious at an event.

Plan ahead

Think about where your loved one is at in their recovery journey – what feels right and what may be too difficult at this time. Think about what challenges lie ahead and prepare strategies for managing these challenging strategies in advance.

Carers are usually most attuned to their loved ones, so chances are you will have an idea of what could be a potential challenge. Trust your instincts!

As food is often a significant part of any holiday gathering, it’s best to consider different ways of providing calmness and security around food and meals.

Advocate for your loved one

As carers, it is important that we advocate for our loved ones who may not be able to advocate for themselves, or may not even know what they need in the moment. This includes anticipating potential triggers, and managing difficult situations should they arise.

Your loved one is counting on your support to get them through difficult periods, which for many people can include the holidays. Be the person they can count on.

Prior to events, you may wish to:

  • Learn to say no to attending events! If you know your loved one will find it difficult to attend, say no so they don’t have to.
  • Speak to the host prior to events to work out ways of making your loved one comfortable
  • Educate family and friends about eating disorders
  • Have an exit plan in place. Consider a non-verbal way your loved one can communicate with you to let you know they need to leave (e.g. a hand squeeze, text from across the room).

Navigating food

  • Routines can be really helpful in chaotic times. Try and stick to a normal routine as much as possible, such as serving meals and snacks at the usual time
  • Find the least stressful time to eat at home, whether it’s before or after an event
  • Prepare plenty of safe foods, especially when eating out of the home
  • Take food-related items with you that your loved one is comfortable using – e.g., dishes, cutlery, etc.
  • Consider seating arrangements and who your loved one feels most comfortable being around.

When attending an event, it may help to:

  • Lower your expectations.
  • Keep your own anxiety in check. Your loved one is looking to you to show them how to feel. Try and stay outwardly calm.
  • Change the subject if conversations shift to diets, weight or other triggering topics. 

EDFA’s Change the Conversation cards are a great way to explain your concerns about a conversation and advocate for your loved one. You can find the cards to download and print here.


While it can be a tough time for those experiencing an eating disorder, it can also a difficult time for carers as well. Remember that self-compassion is a priority for everyone!

Think of things you have done in the past to relax and distract yourself when stressed and have a plan for how you can engage in these activities over the holidays. This may be going for a walk, having a bath, seeing a friend, or taking time to yourself in some other way that you find relaxing.

Prioritise your health and wellbeing. Remember the holidays are about friends and family and connecting with your loved ones. However, if your friends or family tend to make triggering or insensitive comments, consider how you can spend the holidays away from them. Surround yourself with yours and your loved one’s support network.

Wishing all our EDFA families best wishes for the festive season. Hoping your loved ones manage to get through this challenging time with your love, support and understanding.


Managing the Holidays – EDFA 

Tips for the Holiday Season – The Redleaf Practice 

Developing Healthy Holiday Traditions – Eating Disorder Hope 

Shared knowledge and generosity of those with lived experience.