Christmas is the time for indulging into the foods we love, spending time with family and having fun. But it can be one of the hardest times of the year for those who struggle with eating disorders.

It’s not really the most ‘wonderful time of the year’, when the main point of the day is food, from selection boxes to the Christmas dinner, it’s a constant feeling of suffocation.

It can be challenging,  the build up to Christmas, the expectations around socialising and food can contribute to stress and pressure.

There are ways in which you can help yourself at Christmas if times get to tough. But it’s not just at Christmas it is hard, it can happen at any time. 

Perhaps try and stick to your normal eating routine, it doesn’t matter what it is but if you’ve been given an eating plan perhaps from a therapist or treatment team, discuss with them how to stick with it. You don’t have to eat large amounts, just do what you can. 

Plan ahead, ask the host what they will be serving for dinner and if anything causes stress or you to be overwhelmed talk to them and if you can’t do that, speak to a counsellor, if you’re seeing one most of the time they’d be willing to talk to the host about what you’re going through.

Make sure you have a support plan in place if you need it. It could be a friend or family member who you can chat too, or even giving your therapist a call when the time is right. But there are support helplines that are open 24/7, even over Christmas. 

If you need to exit then know your plan. Having relatives and friends around eating food can add a lot of pressure to the individual with the eating disorder. Find somewhere to take some deep breaths, just in case it gets to much. 

Don’t feel bad about saying no! Some people may not like the fact that food is turned down, if they don’t understand whats going on. If you do not feel like having to socialise with relatives, you do not have to feel like you need too. You have every right to back out of the social obligation. If you don’t want to eat certain foods, you don’t need too. 

Remember that: If you want to change the subject because it’s making you feel uncomfortable you can. Change it to something other than food, dieting etc.

Food doesn’t have to be your enemy, it’s your fuel. Whatever you eat, does not define you. You do not need to make up for what you eat tomorrow!

Stay positive, as hard as it is. Focus on the happy memories that the festive season brings. Catching up, decorating, board games, seasonal music! Keep those happy traditions in the front of your mind! 

It can be tempting to stay silent about the fears, worries and the anxiety of it all. But staying silent makes it so much harder. Reach out for help and get the support you need, they will understand and try and make the holidays a little easier. 

Guilt is the biggest challenge with those who have eating disorders. It results in shame, self-loathing and hopelessness.  They can have a ‘voice’ that urges the individuals to feel guilty or shame around food, body image and past traumas. Shame can lead to binge cycles, purging or restriction. Which can be a problem at Christmas time, the fear of food and whether bingeing will take place or to much restriction. 

Most common types of eating disorders are: Anorexia Nervosa, which is the most well known eating disorder. It generally develops during adolescence or young adulthood. People effected with anorexia will view themselves as overweight, even if they’re dangerously underweight. They will monitor their weight, avoid eating some foods and severely restrict their calories to a dangerous amount. Restricting to loose weight quickly through dieting, fasting and over exercising. 

Anorexia can cause critical damage to your body. Over time,  the individuals living with it may experience thinning of bones, infertility, brittle hair and nails. 

In some cases if it gets more severe it can lead to heart, brain, organ failure etc.

Bulimia Nervosa is another fairly common eating disorder. People with bulimia frequently eat unusually large amounts of food in a short space of time. Each ‘binge episode’ will result in the person feeling painfully full. They will feel like they can’t stop eating or control how much they are eating. 

They will then purge to compensate for the calories consumed and relieve the discomfort. They will either vomit, fast, use laxatives or do excessive exercise. 

The effects of bulimia may include: Inflamed and sore throat, swollen glands, worn tooth enamel, tooth decay, acid reflux, irritation of the gut and dehydration. 

In more severe cases, it can create an imbalance in body levels and electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium and calcium. This can cause a stroke or heart attack. 

Binge eating disorder was recently just recognised as an eating disorder. It is similar to bulimia. They will eat large amounts of food and feel a lack of control. 

People who suffer with binge eating disorder are often overweight or obese. Which may increase their risk of medical complications, heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes.  Unlike the other two eating disorders, this one is not through restriction of calories, or purging behaviours. 

Christmas is getting closer, don’t make it to tough on yourself, talk to someone, not just this holiday but whenever you need the support, do not suffer alone!

Call Beat on helpline: 0808 801 0677 or email  Youthline for under 18’s: 0808 801 0711 or email on Studentline: 0808 801 0811. 

Call SEED on 01482 718130 or email

MGEDT (Men get Eating Disorders Too)  email

Call Overeaters Anonymous 07798 587 802 or email

Student  Journalist