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  • Jan Taylor Schultz

Holiday Stress

It’s November, and I remember years ago when I was in college how I would dread the upcoming holiday of Thanksgiving—the one holiday that seemed solely for the function of having a big meal and overeating! The holiday season can be very exciting, but also can be very stressful for people who have eating disorders. Lack of schedule, a focus on overindulgence, and being with family for several days, often can produce feelings of worry.

As my clients from Indiana University start making plans to leave for Thanksgiving break, we begin to discuss how to plan ahead and prepare for the Thanksgiving week, as well as the upcoming semester break in December.


  1. First and foremost, remember that holidays are for enjoying time with family, friends, and having a break. This often is difficult to remember when there is such a focus on food.

  2. Plan/schedule your week—try to plan getting out of the house every day, even if it is to run errands or help out your friends or family. For example, enjoy mornings at home, but every afternoon try to create a reason to get out of the house—go to the drugstore, take a walk, etc.

  3. Talk with family and friends about your worries surrounding food and the lack of schedule. Ask for their support, and tell them you may need to process your feelings before and after the holiday meals.

  4. Take charge and fix or bring something to a the holiday meal that you will eat and enjoy—this can help alleviate worry and stress, as then you know there will be one item that you will feel comfortable eating.

  5. Don’t skip the entire day of eating and “save up” for the big holiday meal. This can set you up to over eat because you will be over hungry. Eating a meal and a snack earlier in the day will help you eat more moderately during the meal.

  6. Find out what is being served, and try to pre-plan what you will have on your plate, and think about trying to allow yourself to have dessert. Planning in advance is primary for helping to prevent over or under eating.

  7. Take walks after the meal—suggest to your friends and family that it is helpful to have a distraction after the meal, and that you might feel less stressed if someone could walk with you.

  8. Remember: these holidays only happen a few times per year, and with the help and support of family and friends, along with planning in advance, you can get through the holidays and hopefully enjoy them!

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