Communicate ED Recovery Needs to Loved Ones for the Holidays

November 18, 2020 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

If you deal with an eating disorder (ED), it's no secret that the holidays can lead to heightened stress—both for you and for those in your support network. However, when you take the time and effort to communicate your specific ED recovery needs to loved ones, it can reduce the tension and help you feel more at ease this holiday season. Not to mention, once friends or family members know what your ED recovery needs are, they will be able to offer the right kind of support, reassurance, encouragement, and accountability.

How to Communicate Your Needs in ED Recovery

I can still remember how anxious I felt during the first holiday season after I was discharged from residential treatment. I was brand-new to eating disorder recovery, and it seemed like I could not escape all the triggers around me. Fortunately, I had reliable friends, relatives, and clinicians to share the burden when it started to feel unmanageable. However, if I did not communicate my personal ED recovery needs to those loved ones, they would not have understood how to help me. The following communication pointers made the holiday season less overwhelming for me and my support network—I hope the same is true for you.

Communicating Your ED Recovery Needs

  1. Write down a list of your triggers and share them with someone you trust, so this person can be on the lookout to help you confront those triggers in real-time.
  2. Enlist your support network to discourage conversations about food, weight, calories, diets, exercise, and other difficult topics around the holiday table.  
  3. Express that it makes you uncomfortable if others watch your eating habits, remark on your portion sizes, or draw too much attention to you during the meal.
  4. Ask a family member or friend to be your "check-in" person at holiday events in case you need space from the rest of the group's commotion for a while. This person should be someone you feel safe talking to and spending time with one-on-one.   
  5. Brainstorm activities with your loved ones that all of you can participate in together, such as festive crafts, puzzles, board games, or kitchen projects. 
  6. Practice active listening as you communicate with those in your support network. Show compassion and interest toward their point of view. Allow them to ask questions and share concerns about the eating disorder. Provide clarification if there are any misunderstandings. Be respectful and present during the whole conversation.
  7. Create boundaries to prioritize your own mental and emotional health during the holiday season. If certain friends or family members do not honor your needs, reinforce those pre-determined boundaries with them graciously but firmly.   

Communication of ED Recovery Needs Matters

When you communicate ED recovery needs to your loved ones, it often has a major impact on how you experience the holiday season. Instead of feeling stressed or anxious, you can focus on being present and connected in your relationships. So be straightforward about the kind of support you will need from others this holiday season. Eating disorder recovery can feel more strenuous than usual this time of year, but when you're honest, open, and vulnerable with those in your support network, they are able to share the load.   

How have you communicated your ED recovery needs to your loved ones? Did they respect your requests? I'd like to hear your stories, so please share them in the comments.

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2020, November 18). Communicate ED Recovery Needs to Loved Ones for the Holidays, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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