Holiday Season Stressors: Promoting Awareness

For individuals with eating disorders, holiday season stressors can overwhelm the merriment of “the most wonderful time of the year.”

For many, the holiday season is associated with warm hors-d’oeuvres, mingling, and social dinner parties. For others, though, the thought of gathering with loved ones around the table elicits a very different feeling. In a time when the obesity epidemic has gained so much attention and crash diets and dietary fads are aplenty, a rather unspoken and silent illness continues to permeate through society.

Holiday Season Stressors for Individuals with Eating Disorders

The New York Times writes that our society “is populated by men and, more commonly, women who shun food, not because they are too poor to afford it, but because they are too troubled to desire it.” It is currently estimated that 30 million Americans are plagued by disorders such as anorexia nervosa, binge-eating, and bulimia. While often associated with young, white females, it is now known that anorexia affects the population at large—men and women of all religions, races, creeds, and ethnicities.

There is no socioeconomic status or geographic area that wards off eating disorders, so even the most lavish of holiday dinner parties may feel grim for some attendees this year. It is paramount that, as we approach this holiday season, we remember that some among us may experience these food-driven social gatherings differently. We should approach them with warmth, understanding, and awareness.

An Increase in Eating Disorders in America

Over the last half-century, Americans have become more exposed to eating disorders and have learned to better understand these complex conditions. This shift is largely due to the visibility that eating disorders have gained as a result of celebrity and public figures coming forward with their struggles. One such public figure is Ms. Karen Carpenter, whose startling death in the 1980s led to the evolution of public understanding around the issue. Since her untimely death, public awareness has, as stated in the New York Times article, “come more sharply into focus.”

Lessons learned from other brave individuals who have shared their story — including Jane Fonda, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Calista Flockhart, Fiona Apple, and Paula Abdul — demonstrate that even fame and fortune is not immune to struggle. This truth serves as yet another reminder that holiday seasons stressors exist. As we are enjoying fine dinners, drinking and eating to excess this holiday season, we must be mindful that some among us are not.

Proven Treatments for Eating Disorders

Fortunately, much is now known about eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.  While they are complex conditions, there are clearly defined, proven treatments to address them. There are also efforts in the field to make quality treatment available to more and more people via technology and telehealth services.

That said, many battle distress around each and every eating experience daily. As we approach the holiday season, you may feel unsure about how to support a loved one through a potentially triggering period. There are many resources online – like this article from our blog! – that can help friends and family members identify what to say and what not to when sitting around the dinner table.

Our qualified staff at Columbus Park is here to help you. Learn more about our gold standard approach to eating disorder treatment.


Call Columbus Park today at 646-414-1446 for a free phone screen.  We can help you clarify your needs, provide direct support, or identify alternative resources for help.