Coping with an Eating Disorder at Christmas




With the festive season approaching, people coming together for happy Christmas meals and lots of celebrations taking place, the time is unfortunately not so ‘merry’ for all. Over the last 30-40 years, the incidence of eating disorders has increased and become a widespread problem across the UK and worldwide. Statistics suggest that between 1.25 and 3.4 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder (BED) and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED).


So, how does the winter period affect those living with these conditions? Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of year for individuals dealing with these challenges. There is a huge emphasis on food and drink around this time and this can result in additional pressures on those with disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. With meals becoming a social occasion as people gather together, individuals can experience feelings of guilt and shame. For example, the focus to eat large amounts can trigger those dealing with a binge-eating disorder, or may cause anxiety with anyone suffering with anorexia. Not to mention, conversations regarding New Year’s resolutions may be centred on weight loss and this can occasionally be the hot topic discussed at the table. In turn, this period can be very challenging for individuals, which can cause isolation for people dealing with it privately.


This is why we believe there should be more support in place for the many that are secretly facing obstacles, in what should be a joyful time for all. There are many ways to help ease worries and concerns surrounding this period, which are outlined below:

  • Try to focus on the parts of Christmas you do enjoy. Whether this is decorating the house, sending cards and presents to loved ones, seeing everyone together or the Christmas songs, try to place your attention on the more positive aspects.
  • Serving food as a buffet rather than as sit-down meals. This provides more flexibility for guests and will overcome any issues surrounding guilt, expectations and feeling obliged to consume specific portions.
  • Make loved ones aware of avoiding questions based on food. You may decide to inform close relatives or friends to not mention these subjects as it could cause further anxiety and pressure in members who may be experiencing issues alone. For example, telling loved ones to not comment on people’s appearance or questioning what or how much food they are eating.
  • Once dinner is over, moving focus onto an enjoyable activity, like a family movie, television show or playing board games. This can ease any tense emotions experienced by those facing anxious thoughts and allow conversations to be transferred from food-based topics.


With a very different and difficult year coming to an end, Christmas is going to be slightly unusual. Therefore, planning and preparing in advance is key and it is important to remind yourself it is completely okay to not meet expectations. Do not put more pressure on yourself and know that you are never alone.


If you or someone you know is struggling to cope with Christmas, S.E.E.D offers a range of services to help, including online support groups and low-cost person-centred counselling. Remember that we are always here to help and we truly believe that it can get better.