• Eating Disorders and the Holidays

Mayo Clinic Psychologist Available to Speak about Coping with Eating Disorders, Binge Eating During Holiday Season

The majority of Americans embrace the holiday season as a festive time to eat, drink and celebrate with friends, family and co-workers. For those with eating disorders such as binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, however, the holiday season can be a nightmare.

People with eating disorders usually begin to worry about food consumption at holiday gatherings weeks — sometimes even months — before the event, says Leslie Sim, Ph.D., clinical director of the Mayo Clinic Eating Disorders Program.

“Unfortunately for our patients with eating disorders, the holiday season is really a nightmare. It’s something that they dread and talk about and anticipate for months ahead of the holidays,” Dr. Sim says. “It’s really a stressful time because there are large amounts of food around. That’s how people celebrate.”

About 10 million females and 1 million males suffer from an eating disorder and millions more are struggling with a binge eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

Dr. Sim suggests a few tips to navigate through holiday gatherings:

  • Always have a plan. People with eating disorders should eat like they would on a normal day and not skip any meals. Make sure to eat breakfast, lunch, and a light snack in addition to the meal. People who starve themselves are more likely to skip out on the meal entirely or engage in binge eating.
  • If family or friends know someone is struggling with an eating disorder, it’s not a good idea to comment on their weight during a holiday gathering. Even a compliment can be taken the wrong way.
  • If you’re hosting a holiday gathering with plenty of food, don’t take offense if someone doesn’t eat.
  • People with eating disorders should have a coping strategy if they begin to feel stressed during a gathering. Dr. Sim suggests tactics such as deep breathing, meditation and talking to a close friend of family member.

Dr. Sim is available for broadcast, print and radio interviews on coping with eating disorders during the holiday season now through January 2012. To schedule an interview, contact Nick Hanson at 507-266-4945 or hanson.nicholas@mayo.edu.

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