OCD and Anxiety
From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, the year-end holiday season is a time of celebration that often means indulging in rich food and lots of it. That can lead to a stressful time for those who worry about binge eating. Maxine Cimperman, clinical nutrition supervisor at Rogers’ Eating Disorder Center in Oconomowoc, says that concerns over managing the holiday season are something that most patients at Rogers bring up.
“I think some people overeat or binge eat during the holidays due to the abundance of delicious foods available and maybe due to extra free time to spend relaxing,” Maxine says. “Family and friends often show their love through food. We may inadvertently eat more food in a way to receive more love.”
Even if people partake in larger portions and a higher caloric intake than normal, the most important thing is getting back to a regular pattern of eating, according to Maxine. What often causes people to stumble is coming up with plans like fasting all day prior to the main meal in an effort to save up calories.
“This often backfires due to getting overly hungry and then overeating at the main event,” Maxine says. “It also leaves you running on empty in the morning, which isn’t how we want to feel while celebrating with family and friends. This process can invoke feelings of guilt and shame, leading to more restriction the next day and ultimately more bingeing. Despite when and what is served for a holiday meal, you should still try to follow your normal eating schedule.”
Maxine says that she also recommends foregoing alcohol if you’re someone who struggles with binge eating, as it may trigger overeating for some. “It would serve you best to avoid alcohol if struggling with binge behaviors,” she says. “When it comes to the diet, the truth is, all things are best in moderation.”
Maxine says that it’s better to go into the holiday season with a plan based on avoiding triggers and with moderation in mind.
“There are lots of little tips and tricks that may help someone reduce or eliminate disordered eating during the holiday season," she says. "They can plan ahead, know where they are going for the celebration, what will be served, and who will be in attendance. If needed, they can give themselves permission to limit the people they see during the holidays.
“If you know that a relative always comments on your weight/shape/size/food intake, maybe keep your holiday celebration to immediate family only this year. Keep food in one location, all in the kitchen or all at the dining room table. This may help reduce mindless eating while near food.”
Maxine also reminds us that no one’s eating disorder is exactly the same as someone else’s and that different methods of treatment will work better for one person than for another. She says eating disorder recovery is not a linear path, and even the best preparations can’t always prevent challenges during the holidays.
“If something goes wrong during the holiday season and you do binge, forgive yourself and move forward toward recovery. A lapse does not have to be a relapse. Anyone who is struggling with or has struggled with an eating disorder knows that forgiveness and resilience are key to a lasting recovery!”