Do you feel anxious over the holidays around food and family members? Are you allowing the eating disorder to give you a false sense of control over your life? What are some tips to help you get through the holidays and enjoy them instead of dread them? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about Holidays and Your Eating Disorder.


  • Holiday time and eating disorder anxiety
  • A false sense of control
  • Tips for managing disordered behaviors over the holidays

Holiday time and eating disorder anxiety

The holidays can be a stressful time for people who are struggling with eating disorders. It is a time surrounded by family, friends, and lots of food.
These eating disordered thoughts, feelings, and behaviors existed and consumed everyday life even before the holidays, but everything was amplified over the holidays. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)
Eating disorders can push people to isolate themselves from others due to feelings of shame, unworthiness, and a fear of perceived judgment. Therefore, Thanksgiving and December can be stressful months for people who struggle with disordered eating.

A false sense of control

Some people use their eating disorder as a sense of structure and routine for their lives, and anything that impacts the eating disorder seems to impact this sense of control. However, this is backward. The eating disorder is what is upsetting the rest of your life, and tackling the disorder is what will bring back a true sense of calmness and security.
I wasn’t in control. I couldn’t enjoy the holidays. If I was in control then I would have been able to go a day, even a few days, without working out. I would have been able to eat food without feeling guilty or eat food without having any emotions tied to it. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)

Tips for managing disordered behaviors over the holidays

Acknowledge what you are feeling:

Validating the emotion is the first step to overcoming it. Validating it does not mean acting on it, it simply means that you acknowledge its presence and do not try to suppress it or judge it.

Have compassion for yourself:

The holidays are not always a stress-free and happy time for everyone. For some people, this time can be lonely, difficult, or triggering. Do not feel like you “must” be glad during this time.

Ask for help:

Reach out to a trusted family member or friend who can support you throughout this time. You do not have to go through it alone and with no one the wiser as to how you are feeling.

Permit yourself to eat some of your favorite holiday foods:

This may seem impossible, but allow yourself to have some of your favorite things so that you do not feel deprived and end up binging later on.
If you give yourself permission to eat what you want when you want, and however much you want, it helps you to not obsessively think about those foods. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)

Set healthy boundaries for yourself:

Know who you will be around. If there is a family member who may trigger you by discussing difficult topics, plan some self-care or change your plans so that you do not have to interact with them. Be honest with yourself about what you need, it is okay not to overcommit yourself and you can leave whenever you want.



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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