Holiday Season Feature

We are featuring two posts, from two authors, Liz and Marina, as part of this Holiday Season Feature.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of those that have contributed to the NEDIC Blog in 2013. Your stories, combined with your unique perspectives, have made for informative and engaging reads over the last year. This will be our final post of 2013, but we will be back in January 2014 to keep these important conversations going.

If you’re interested in contributing to our 2014 line-up please feel free to get in touch at

Happy Holidays!

Tis the Season to Diet

By: Liz Montgomery

The smell of freshly baked Christmas cookies fills every crevice of my house while snow billows outside my kitchen window. As I pop one of the tasty treats into my mouth, I can’t help but think of all the food I will soon be eating over this holiday season. I flashback to holidays past, as I catch myself thinking about how I can minimize the damage to my waistline as well as my psyche over the long holiday season. Years ago, I use to arm myself with a strategic plan on how to eat as little as possible, maintain my exercise routine all while avoiding the watchful gaze of my family and friends. The sheer anxiety of eating a full Christmas dinner was enough to send my head spinning and my legs running extra miles on the treadmill as a preemptive attack against forced festive gluttony.

Thankfully those days of anxiety and fear are behind me, although I still approach the season with a bit of trepidation. The potential for relapse into old habits and patterns is always a possibility and the need to be honest with myself and how I am feeling is an essential part of my new holiday survival guide. Now I no longer spend hours ruminating on how to avoid the cheese plate and instead focus my energies on connecting with my support team and taking time out to relax and de-stress. I also try to practice my intuitive eating, by listening to my body’s messages about when I am hungry, when I am full and what foods I need.

Finally, I block out the buzz about how we should be obsessing over not gaining weight. Our culturally supported desire to over indulge during the holidays is placed in stark contrast with the media’s incessant propagation of remedies on how to avoid holiday treats and over eating. I found that not giving food a moral value has been essential to getting past the holiday diet talk hype. Food is food, I am not good because I did not eat all day, nor am I bad when I eat my slice of apple pie. I do not let my diet define me nor let the outside world stifle my enjoyment of this joyous season. I give myself permission to fully take care of myself and that will always include Christmas cookies!

Liz Montgomery is a graduate student in Counseling with an interest in addictions and eating disorders. She volunteers for NEDIC and currently works as a personal trainer and running coach in Toronto.

Holiday Season and ED

By: Marina Abdel Malak

It is yet again ‘the season to be jolly’. Christmas time is approaching and with that stores are stocked with gifts, snow is falling, houses are lit, and music is playing. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for someone with an eating disorder, this season can be one of the most stressful times of the year.

Along with the joys of Christmas comes the vast array of seasonal foods associated with this season. Parties are held daily to celebrate, and even workplaces have their own seasonal festivities filled with excitement and cheer enjoying the richness of all the foods and spending time with loved ones. However, with ED, the season may not be fun. Rather, it can become a time of stress and frustration.

It can be difficult to remember that during this season, there are so many wonderful things to be thankful for, such as spending time with loved ones, singing carols, celebrating a religious event, giving and getting gifts, the snow, and snuggling next to the fireplace. When ED is invited into this season, he makes his victims forget about all of this. Sufferers often feel they can think only of food, how it will affect their body, or how they can possibly excuse themselves from eating. Most of the time, sufferers will simply decline to attend events because they cannot deal with the stress of choosing and being exposed to food. But while this may relieve the pressures of eating during the season, it also robs sufferers from enjoying the wonderful and warm joys of Christmas.

Is there a solution to this problem? I think everyone is different in the ways that they deal with the holiday season. The key thing to remember is that the season is a time of joy, and that while ED may try very hard to ruin this, you do not have to let ED win, making you so focused on the food that you forget about the other wonderful things this season. Take time to love your family and friends, share your talents or fortunes, sing a Christmas song, or to read a good book and catch up with your favourite show. As you get stronger and further into recovery, this season won’t be so stressful, and you will start to see how much ED robs his sufferers. Throw a party this Christmas season, or simply attend one – but don’t invite ED.

Personally, I spend the season with family. We open gifts, play games, and watch Christmas movies. We also have a special dinner – but this no longer causes me stress. I have learned to treat this like any other meal: it is a dinner, and my body needs food. To top that off, I am happy to be with my family and to be celebrating with them. Yes, Christmas dinner may be harder for patients with ED because of the contents. There may be foods that patients find difficult to eat. I have found that prior to meals asking people to talk about something aside from food helps to take your mind off of the stress. Whether or not you are a stage in recovery where you can enjoy food varies among different patients, but in any case, ED can rear his ugly ahead during this time. Have a plan of action to stop him in his tracks. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

How to Deal with ED during the Christmas Season
- Plan ahead: if you are on a form of a meal plan, how can you incorporate this? If you may come across triggers, who can you speak with?
- Focus on the joys of the season; movies, gifts, decorations, snow, religious celebrations, music, and family.
- Surround yourself with people who love you and who can support you. Don’t attend a party that will overwhelm you or trigger you.
- If you do get triggered, or engage in ED behaviour, don’t beat yourself up. Take time, and be patient with yourself. Recovery is a process and there are bumps along the way.

Marina Abdel Malak is a student in Nursing with interest in mental health and eating disorders. She has her own blog at She is recovered from anorexia nervosa.