Making New Holiday Traditions in Eating Disorder Recovery

Monday, Dec 07  •  


Halloween through New Year’s Day can be a particularly challenging time of year for individuals who are living with an eating disorder. With so many holiday traditions centered on food it’s no wonder that this can be a stressful time. 

When in or working toward recovery, it can be helpful to limit activities where disordered thinking can be activated. One important aspect of eating disorder recovery is building a life that suits and inspires you. Doing this requires a shift in how you connect with others and celebrate the holidays. 

This year, try cultivating holiday traditions where food is not the primary focus. We are sharing a few ideas below. 

Focus on your other senses

Taste is not the only sense of the season. Notice the sights, textures, sounds, and smells around you. 

  • Take a drive around your neighborhood to look at Christmas lights and the elaborate holiday displays.
  • Take a stroll through the Christmas tree lot and enjoy the scents of fresh pine. 
  • Put on holiday music and practice creativity in gift wrapping. 

Focus on what is meaningful 

What do you value most? What connects you to others and inspires you? Let your values define how you spend your time. 

  • Give a friend or family member a call and ask them how they’ve been.
  • Listen to holiday music and sing out loud. Studies show that singing helps improve mood, lowers stress, and can even boost your immune system function. 
  • Deliver homemade cards to friends and family who live nearby. Show your appreciation to them through a simple gesture. 
  • Donate money or items to your local food back, your local church, or a non-profit that addresses a cause that you care about. 

Focus on what brings you joy

What activities bring you peace and make you smile? 

  • Snuggle up on the couch for a holiday movie marathon. 
  • Give a gift to someone who is not expecting it. The unforeseen kindness may bring needed joy into both of your lives. 
  • Go sledding, ice-skating, hiking, or even just a relaxing walk or bike ride. Whatever the weather permits, getting outside, and participating in light exercise is a great way to lift your spirits and find joy. 
  • Write thank-you notes to people who have positively affected you in the previous year. 
  • Carve out some “me time” for yourself. Take a long bubble bath, head to a yoga class, do some journaling, or try baking. Taking time for yourself around the holidays should be a tradition you stick with year after year. 

There’s so much more to the holiday season than food and there is so much life ahead for a person in recovery. Starting these traditions at the end of the year is a perfect opportunity to set up the next year on a positive note!