How to Talk to Someone with Disordered Eating Around the Holidays

November 30, 2016 Z Zoccolante

How do you talk to someone with disordered eating around the holidays? The holiday season is a time of gathering and lots of food. The average person may complain of overindulging and gaining some turkey or pie weight. But for the person with an eating disorder, the joy of the holidays can be a time filled with anxiety (Surviving [and Thriving] During the Holidays With An Eating Disorder). Food is a part of celebration but for those with disordered eating, it can be difficult to maintain stability or stay on the recovery path. Added to that stress are the dreaded looks or awkward questions of friends and family members. Here’s how to be a supportive person and talk with someone with disordered during the holiday celebrations.

Disordered Eating Can Affect Anyone

Not all people with eating disorders look as though they have an eating disorder. There are many people that appear average in body shape that are secretly struggling with disordered eating. You don’t have to be extra thin or skeletal to have a serious disorder. Just because you see Monica with a full plate of food and a smile on her face, we can’t assume that she’s internally peaceful. Keep in mind that a majority of women, although they don’t fit the criteria for an eating disorder, may have shame or preoccupation with food (Eating Disorder Symptoms).

Disordered Eating Isn’t About the Food

In my experience, if people see you eating they think that you’re okay, but often that’s far from the truth. Food, like a substance, is simply a band-aid for the discomfort underneath. If we think about an eating disorder as being the only coping mechanism for Monica, then at the dinner party whenever she’s happy or uncomfortable she’s going to want to reach for her closest coping tool – the eating disorder. Holiday parties are triggering because of the mass amounts of food and navigating all the people at the celebration (Using Coping Skills in Eating Disorder Recovery).

Say These Things Around the Holidays to Someone with Disordered Eating

Talking to someone with disordered eating can be uncomfortable at holiday feasts. Here's how to have supportive talks with those living with disordered eating.As we talked about above, it can be good practice not to assume that people do or do not have an eating disorder. Still, let’s say that we know that cousin Monica was in treatment and she’s in recovery from an eating disorder.

Here are a few things to talk about that may make her feel more comfortable.

  1. Comment on something not physical about the person. For example: “I noticed and really appreciated how you included everyone, including me, in that conversation.”
  2. Don’t talk about food (remember food is the band-aid). Ask her about something she's excited about in her life right now. For example: Tell her something that you’re excited about in your life. For those of us who are introverted and have an eating disorder, the anxiety of being in conversation can be excruciating. It helps a lot to have someone who can take the lead.
  3. If you’re seriously concerned about Monica’s health, be classy. Please do not out her in front of others, ask how her recovery is going, or comment on anything she is, or is not, eating. It’s humiliating to the person with the eating disorder. Ask if you can speak to her later, privately. Then, in private, tell her that you love her (if you do) and you’re concerned for her and want her to be happy and healthy. Ask how you might support her (knowing she might not let you).
  4. Let her eat what she wants. The more stares Monica gets, or the more people try to make her eat, the more uncomfortable she’s going to feel. Especially if Monica is in recovery, she knows what she’s comfortable eating. Trust that she can take care of herself.

These suggestions are not an end all be all of talking to someone with disordered eating around the holidays, but rather some things I wish people would have known about me when I was in my eating disorder and going through recovery. Have a wonderful holiday. Nourish yourself with yummy food and safe, loving, supportive people.

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APA Reference
Zoccolante, Z. (2016, November 30). How to Talk to Someone with Disordered Eating Around the Holidays, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Z Zoccolante

December, 3 2016 at 5:08 am

Hello, i have never been on a blog before but im trying to find people to talk to about my Bulimia, i have tried to get out of this disorder for so many years now it seems like it is finally consuming me..i feel like only people that have been where i am can help me now.. i really need to connect some how to any one that is ether recovering or has recovered, i am feeling so hopeless right now, if there is any one out there...i had been able to manage this condition for even years at a time, but it always seems to resurface...and i have found this time it is stronger than it has ever been..i now feel totally out of control...i feel im losing the fight and my there any body out there ????

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Z Zoccolante
December, 4 2016 at 3:50 pm

Hi Mele. Yes, I'm here. I've been at the place that I hear you talking about right now, where you've been trying to recover for years and sometimes feel as though it may be hopeless. I am now fully recovered, which for me means that I get to eat what I want when I want without any eating disordered thoughts or patterns and I appreciate and like my body and am kind to it. I'm available to answer any specific questions you may have. You can connect with me here or here:

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