Holiday Season Difficult for Those Struggling With Eating Disorders, Group Says

The food-focused holiday season can be tough for the millions of Americans battling an eating disorder. That’s why groups like the National Eating Disorder Association are offering a variety of treatment programs to help people in their recovery.

Tables filled with holiday favorites may be a jolly sight for some, but for those struggling in their relationship with food, the winter holidays can be tough, according to National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) Helpline Services Director Lauren Smolar.

The holidays are a particularly “high-stress environment” for the 30 million Americans who struggle with an eating disorder, Smolar said, because these celebrations are often centered on food. In fact, even people who don’t struggle with an eating disorder can develop an anxious relationship with food during the holiday season, she said.

While the number of people affected by eating disorders continues to rise, there is some good news: More are seeking treatment and help. And as they do, groups have begun to offer a variety of treatment programs to help people address the unique obstacles they face in recovery.

Those who suffer from an eating disorder can’t abstain from food as would a person in an alcohol or drug rehab program, Smolar said. Because people need to eat to live, they need to find a healthy relationship with food, and that relationship will vary depending on the person.

“Recovery is a complex process that is unique to each person’s experience with an eating disorder,” said Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists Cofounder and Executive Director Greta Gleissner. “Having enough support, especially when transitioning back into everyday life, is crucial to help prevent relapse.”

Seeing the need for individualized treatment and recovery, one-on-one programs—which allow trained professionals to help an individual in all stages of the recovery process, regardless of location—are becoming more prevalent across the U.S. The programs are a way to “bridge the gap between treatment and one’s environment,” Gleissner said.

While NEDA recommends an individual struggling with an eating disorder always seek professional help, the group recognizes there are benefits to other forms of treatment, such as peer-to-peer support programs, support groups, and online forums—particularly for those who prefer to talk to a number of people at various stages in the recovery process. And for those traveling for the holidays, round-the-clock online program options could prove valuable when people are away from their regular counselors or support centers, NEDA says.


Katie Rucke

By Katie Rucke

Katie Rucke is former Associate Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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