Eating Disorders Triggered by the Holidays

by Janine Vlassakis Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Believe you can and you're halfway there.                                   

Theodore Roosevelt 

The “most wonderful time of the year” can be tough for those suffering from an eating disorder. The holidays can be overwhelming and stressful with so much focus placed on food in social environments.  As a result many, and especially those with eating disorders, become anxious, upset or engage in disordered eating behaviors to attempt to mitigate their anxiety.  Here are suggestions to get through the holidays:

·          Remind yourself or your clients of common self-soothing practices and avoid dangerous coping mechanisms. 

·           Identify or encourage yourself or your client to identify what is “happy” about the holidays.  That simple reminder can help focus on the positive aspects of the season.

·          Families can play an integral part in helping the holidays be joyful. Remind your family or your clients’ family what a trying time this may be.  While food is an inherent part of most events during the holidays, families can help diffuse the focus by planning activities such as a craft or family game to focus on as a distraction. 

·          Remind your family or your client’s family that discussing your appearance may do more harm than good.  Help close family understand that statements such as, “you look so much better!” can translate to “I look fat” in your or your client’s mind.  Ask family to make other family members aware as well, so time with family can be remembered as positive rather than triggering negative emotions. 

·          If you or your client is taking a break from treatment over the holidays, be sure to address any concerns about being away and social situations.  Be sure to strategize and discuss skills to continue recovery. 

·          Arrange a time to start back into therapy after the holiday to continue treatment in the New Year.

·          Be mindful and encourage clients to be mindful of the positives of this time of year.  Focus on time spent with people supportive in recovery, and to create new happy memories to reflect upon next year.

Janine Vlassakis, M.Ed. is the Mid-Atlantic Professional Relations Coordinator for the Cambridge Eating Disorder Center.  Her role at CEDC is to provide clinicians and other professionals with information about the levels of care which CEDC offers.  In addition, with her background in counseling and education, she speaks regarding various topics relating to the complexity and treatment of Eating Disorders.  


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relationships, friendships | Self-Care | Social Work | Treatment Modalities

The Therapeutic Relationship - Caring and Healing

by Michele Gustafson Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A wave of awe comes over me as Mary describes how she’s caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s and her 6 year old granddaughter, all while dealing with her own ulcerative colitis and depression.  Do I care about her and getting her beyond the depression that’s keeping her from sleeping, eating and enjoying the sweeter moments of her life?  Yes, I do. As do most therapists. It is why we enter the profession.

Do I care about her differently than her husband, her mother or her daughter?  Of course.  The way I care about her and hear her is entirely different from the way her loved ones do.  She and I are relating for her and about her.  I am committed to seeing her through to our intended outcome – free of symptoms, contented and lighthearted again.

Your therapist will come to know you in ways your loved ones do not.  He or she will come to understand you in each of the roles you play – wife/ husband, mother/father, grandmother/grandfather, sister/brother – and as an individual. 

For our 45 minute session, Mary’s needs, thoughts and feelings will have my complete attention and the benefit of my skills.  For this, Mary and her insurance company will pay me a fee. But that fee doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely care about Mary, or my other clients.

Understanding your therapist’s level of care for you is about understanding the nature of your relationship. It is not a relationship based on family or friendship.  It is centered on you and is not reciprocal.  You enter into a payment agreement with your therapist to care about you in a unique way – in a way that is responsive, useful and not particularly complicated. 

I will see Mary beyond this depression to enjoying life again.  At that time, we will wish each other well and say good-bye.  Someone else will occupy her chair and I will hear his story and his needs.  I will listen, I will care and I will help.

Michele Gustafson LMSW

Michele Gustafson, LMSW, DCSW practices in Grand Blanc and Fenton, Michigan.  She has over 25 years experience doing therapy, having received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Michigan where she has taught psychology and social work.

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