Supporting Eating Disorder Recovery Through the Holidays


Clementine Briarcliff Manor Registered Dietitian Megan Fahey, MS, RD, CDN discusses eating disorder recovery through the holidays in this week’s blog post. Megan outlines tips to offer you or your loved one support around the holiday table.

It is once again the most wonderful (and stressful) time of year! Along with shopping, decorating and gift giving, cooking and baking are included on the never-ending to-do list. From Thanksgiving dinner through New Year’s celebrations, food undeniably plays a central role at holiday gatherings. For an individual struggling with an eating disorder, or working to maintain recovery from one, the overwhelming focus on eating can take away from celebratory experiences with family and friends. The following are tips to offer you or your loved one support around the holiday table.

Plan Ahead.

Schedule holiday plans in advance in order to make any necessary adjustments to your meal plan. Gather details on the location and timing of each event, as well as the type of food served. Work with your dietitian prior to a holiday party to create a balanced plate from the dishes that will be available. Focus on incorporating a variety of textures, colors and flavors to enjoy. Keeping in line with a 3 meal + 3 snack meal plan model, try selecting appetizers or desserts for one or more of your “snacks” to normalize your style of eating for the holidays. If you or your loved one have food allergies or dietary restrictions, be sure to collaborate with the hostess and bring alternative dishes as needed. Although the meal plan is a tool to help you navigate decisions around food at the table, it is important to maintain flexibility around timing of eating and selection of food. Becoming attuned to your physical body will ultimately shift your focus away from an external meal plan. Eating disorder recovery is possible when you provide yourself permission to nourish yourself based on your body’s internal cues and desires.

Ask for Support.

This is a time of year to connect with those around us. Open up to a trusted family member or friend to communicate whatever support you may need to follow your established meal plan. Identify particular food behaviors you are working on and explain how your “ally” can best support you at the table. Maybe you need a second set of eyes assessing your portion sizes, or someone to pace with you during the meal. It may be stepping aside before and/or after the meal to briefly process your emotions and check in with your hunger / fullness levels. Eating disordered thoughts and urges are isolating, even when surrounded by a room full of people. Reach out and ask someone to help you process the emotion of the holiday to help resist eating disorder urges before, during and after the meal.

Be Mindful.

Mindfulness practices such as deep breathing will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and ease the muscles of the digestive tract. Your mindset while eating impacts not only the quantity of food you consume, but also how well your body is able to digest and absorb the nutrients present in the meal. Take a moment before the first bite to place both feet on the floor and take a few deep breaths to help calm your nervous system and ground yourself at the table. Although it sounds simple, mindful breathing will restore oxygen to the brain, helping you think clearly and make more effective decisions.

Create New Traditions.

It is not uncommon for holiday discussion to revolve around food, often times referencing the “good” or “bad” qualities of each component of the meal. This can be especially triggering to hear if you are working to establish a more nourishing relationship with food and your body. Although it is not possible control the attitudes of those around you, try introducing games or music at your family gathering to help shift the focus from food talk to interpersonal connection. Set a goal to interact with family members in a different way by engaging in conversation around shared interests or offering non-appearance related complements to at least 3 people. Remember that most people experience some level of anxiety at holiday gatherings and may also benefit from creating new traditions for the day.

Give to Yourself. 

During this season of giving, it is extremely important to tend to your own needs. There is such a beautiful energy in the spirit of the holidays, which can be overshadowed by your anxiety around food and eating. Create time in your schedule for self-care, incorporating relaxing activities to balance social holiday events. Implement a gratitude practice to connect with the abundance of your life. You have worked so hard on this journey of eating disorder recovery and are inherently worthy of experiencing all of the joy of the holiday season.


Clementine invites you to an open house celebration for our newest location, Clementine Malibu Lake, opening in December, on November 30th at 5pm! Learn more here

For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Creating a Game Plan for the Holidays – Helping you and your loved one navigate


Clementine Parent Advisory Board Members Becky Henry, CPCC and Cherie Monarch co-wrote this week’s blog post for all those with a loved one struggling with an eating disorder. Becky and Cherie outline clear tips to create a game plan to support you and your loved one in navigating the upcoming holidays. We are thankful to both Becky and Cherie for contributing this extremely helpful piece.

For someone with an eating disorder, the holidays can be an extremely difficult and stressful time. There are family celebrations, school parties, office parties, friend parties…the list goes on. But the common theme of these celebrations is FOOD.  Food is everywhere. Food is the topic of conversation. Everyone is speaking of “good” and “bad” foods. How they shouldn’t be “bad”. How they will “work it off” tomorrow. FOOD. FOOD. FOOD. WEIGHT.

For our loved ones trapped in the private hell of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and other eating disorders, the holidays are the ultimate nightmare.  These holidays magnify the personal struggles of our loved one and can be extremely difficult – for the family and the patient. The family is uncertain how to support the patient during these “food” feasts and the patient is terrified, feeling an increase in anxiety surrounding the holidays.

Follow these 10 tips to create a game plan that will help support you and your loved one throughout these food focused holidays.

Encourage your family to focus on the real meaning of the celebration. Make sure that the primary focus of the holiday is not on the food but rather on the family and the valued time you will share together. Take this opportunity to educate family and friends about eating disorders prior to the event. Discourage talk of calories, food, fullness, over eating, and encourage discussions of gratitude and love.

Recognize and validate how challenging the holidays are for your loved one. Understand for someone navigating an eating disorder the holidays are overwhelming. Validate their fears and their challenges. Be compassionate, kind, supportive and loving.

Plan other activities and distractions. Allow for other activities such as games, movies, caroling, decorating, that focus on the quality time with friends and family. This will give your loved one and you and opportunity to relax and breathe.

Plan meals ahead of the event. Establish a plan with your loved one on how they will navigate the day. Determine ahead of time how you can best support them and what their menu will be. For someone with an eating disorder, being faced with a bountiful buffet can be overwhelming. So many choices and decisions can be paralyzing. Help free them by supporting their decisions for meal choices ahead of time.

Grab a buddy. Prior to the event, help your loved one establish a buddy. This buddy will be their support system throughout the day. Anticipate what potential challenges will be and plan ahead on how to navigate. Have the buddy sit next to them during the meal. Establish a sign, like a squeeze of the hand, that will make the buddy aware they need additional support or are struggling. Step away privately to navigate.

Don’t make it about the food. Do not focus or comment on what your loved one is eating or NOT eating. Remember if they are unable to properly nourish at the event, they can supplement later. Don’t ruin your day or your loved one’s day by focusing on the food.

Set healthy boundaries together. You and your loved one work together to establish a plan on how friends and family will be addressed should the conversation take an unhealthy or triggering turn… such as diet talk, food, weight, etc. It can help to role-play this in advance. Saying something like “I declare this table a diet free and weight free zone” or “Can we please change the conversation to something more meaningful and just enjoy each other’s company?” or “I’m so thankful to be amongst family and friends on this special day. Why don’t we each share what we’re grateful for?”  Important that you learn how to ask for what you need.

Be mindful of the time. Often times when our loved ones are navigating recovery it helps to eat at structured times. Have this conversation ahead of time. How can your loved one meet their nutritional needs that day? Make sure the events are planned with a pre-determined time for meals and nourishing. Be aware that it can add tremendous stress to someone in recovery when meal times are ignored or unstructured. Change in routine is very challenging to navigate.

Remember there is always next year.  Holidays can appear at difficult times in the recovery process. If your loved one feels they are unable to face family and friends at this time, change it up. Maybe go for a picnic in the park, spend time in nature, and feed the ducks. Another option is to do something small and intimate right in your own home. Or maybe just prepare a bunch of appetizers (something fun and different) and watch a movie and take a nap. Maybe the entire family can do a hobby together, and keep the focus off the food and on the experience and together time.

Don’t forget to laugh!! It is amazing how much laughter can help lighten the mood and alleviate the stress!

While the holidays are a time for celebration, it is also key to remember that those with eating disorders may be having a particularly hard time. It is critical that a game plan be created in order to help you and your loved one navigate these stressful holiday gatherings.  Following these tips may be a helpful way to guide you and your loved one through this stressful time.

Try to remember that holidays are about celebrating family, gratitude, blessings, and remembering what is truly important in life. The holidays are not about the food. Food is just a part of the celebration. But it’s not the reason we celebrate.

Try not to focus on the eating disorder or let the eating disorder even be a part of the day. Remember that any missed nutrition can be replenished. If there are any concerns, certainly address them with the treatment team after the holidays.

If the celebration, or thought of it, is causing tremendous stress or anxiety on your loved one express concern in a constructive way and ask how you can support them. Remember that you can celebrate quietly and don’t have to attend large stressful gatherings if your loved one is not ready. The most important thing is that there are future opportunities for celebration and that your loved one is here to truly experience them in a healthy way.

Happy holidays to you, your loved one, and your family.


Clementine invites you to an open house celebration for our newest location, Clementine Malibu Lake, opening in December, on November 30th at 5pm! Learn more here

For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


5 Keys to Coping with the Holidays



Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld is a licensed psychologist, certified group psychotherapist, certified eating disorder specialist, and the author of Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation’s Fixation with Food and Weight. Her work focuses on substance use disorders, anxiety and mood disorders, fertility challenges, relationship concerns, and sport and exercise psychology. In addition to directing Gatewell Therapy Center in Miami, she is a co-occurring (eating disorders and addictions) consultant at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. Dr. Rosenfeld works with individuals, couples, families, and groups, using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical-behavioral (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, and motivational interviewing approaches. In this week’s blog post, Dr. Rosenfeld shares strategies to help cope with the upcoming holidays while in eating disorder recovery.

Despite its festivities, the holiday season can present a number of challenges for those in eating disorder recovery. For some, family time can be stressful. Food is often abundant and not on a regular schedule. In many cases, individuals leave the comforts of their homes and routines in order to celebrate with others. Those with co-occurring illness, such as alcohol/substance use disorders, depression, anxiety, or trauma may face additional challenges during this time.

Toward the goal of relapse prevention, a little planning can go a long way. As the holiday season approaches, consider these five “S”s that can help reduce the likelihood of symptoms escalating or re-emerging:


Going into the holidays, take a personal inventory. How have you been doing? What has been challenging for you recently? What have you learned from past events? What types of triggers do you anticipate going into the holidays this year?


Planning is the enemy of relapse. While it might be impossible to predict every potential scenario, strategizing certain situations can go a long way. For instance, if you’re attending a holiday gathering, discuss with one of your treatment professionals how you’ll approach food before, during, and after this event. How will you respond if someone comments on what you’re eating or your weight? If you’re sober, assume someone will offer you a drink; have a response ready to go. Have some topics in mind to discuss if the conversation turns sour (e.g., when the inevitable New Year’s diet talk ensues).


Think about who your supports are and reach out before the holidays approach to see if they’re on board to provide you help if needed. Your interpersonal arsenal might include specific family members, friends, treating professionals, peers from treatment, or others who have identified themselves as healthy supports. Ask your supports if they’ll be available to talk/message at designated times. See if you can check in before and after specific events that you anticipate to be particularly challenging, a practice referred to as “bookending.”


Knowing that the holidays can create additional stress necessitates a ramping up of your standard self-care routine. What can you do that calms you/centers you in preparation for this time? Now is the time to be particularly gentle with yourself. During a stressful situation, are there specific tools you can use to help you through? Do you have an escape strategy ready to go? If something triggers you, and you’re at an event, can you step outside and get some fresh air or contact one of your supports? Are there any pleasurable activities you can get on your calendar following your holiday commitments?


Recognize that, despite your best efforts, setbacks can happen. How you respond to potential setbacks can influence their duration and severity. Recovery is a process of learning from experience, maintaining motivation and commitment, and cultivating self-compassion.


For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

To visit or tour a Clementine location with one of our clinical leaders, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.

Article Spotlight


Join us in reading inspirational and informative articles we have cultivated from across the web. If you have found an article you feel is inspirational, explores current research, or is a knowledgeable piece of literature and would like to share with us please send an e-mail here.

In Groundbreaking Victory for Eating Disorders Prevention & Treatment, Congress Passes Historic Mental Health Reform Legislation NEDA Blog

The Use of Meditation in Children with Mental Health Issues The Psychiatric Times

Transitioning Back to College after Winter Break while in Recovery Eating Disorder Hope

3 Reasons to Let Yourself Feel Your Emotions Psychology Today

Holidays & Hungry Hearts: Serving Soul Food with Jenni Schaefer & Robyn Cruze Angie Viets’ Blog

Wise Words from 10 Women in Recovery About What Empowers Them to Keep Going Chime Yoga Therapy Blog


For more information about Clementine adolescent treatment programs, please call 855.900.2221, visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

To visit or tour a Clementine locations with one of our clinical leaders, please reach out to a Clementine Admissions Specialist at 855.900.2221.