How To Survive Family Gatherings With an Eating Disorder – Tip 1 of 3

Posted By on Jan 5, 2016 | 2 comments

How To Survive Family Gatherings With an Eating Disorder – Tip 1 of 3
by Z Zoccolante
(listen to the audio of this post in the blue box below)


A lot of us just spent the holidays with family.

For some, it was a time of joy and connection. For others, it was frustrating and disappointing, another season to be around those who drive us the most amount of crazy in the least amount of time. For most, it was likely a bit of both.

Holidays and other get togethers used to be a huge struggle for me, eliciting tremendous anxiety.


Because I had a secret eating disorder.

The fact is that gatherings are, let’s just say…complicated for those with disordered eating. If you’re traveling, it can mean staying in a spare bedroom, away from your routines and comforts. Most events include food or “goodies,” which most people expect you to eat. Shopping for special days like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, can feel like you’re auditioning to be a gladiator. Plus, family get togethers are when you see (or feel obligated to see) family members you dislike, never choose to spend time with, or associate with past abuse.


All these things cause stress. And when we experience stress, eating disorders love to come out and play.


It took me a long time to figure out how to cope. I went through a lot.

Hopefully I can save others some of that pain and anxiety by sharing these tips to ease the stress during gatherings:

1) Recognize your triggers.

If you’re not already, use social events (particularly those with family) as a way to research your own self. Learn to detect what specifically happens with family or friends that triggers your desire to binge and purge, or exercise, or whatever else you do compulsively. You may not necessarily change anything at first; you may still engage in the habit. The point is just to notice what happened right before you had the urge to cope. What are your trigger points? How do they affect you?


For example, chats with Aunt Nancy or your coworker Janine may always seem to leave you in a triggered state. When triggered, you’ll feel a compulsive desire to act on your eating disorder behavior.
The reason that’s good to know is that then you can plan ahead. Identify and be mindful of people or things you already know trigger you.


Avoid or limit the time you spend with “problem” people, or enlist a support person. Let’s say my husband was my support person. He could come with me to talk to Aunt Nancy, or if he sees Janine about to chat me up at the office party, he could join our conversation or say he “needs me,” so I can exit the conversation.


There is power in being conscious around our disorders. And you have the right to limit your time with people or things that trigger you.


*Read the entire post on elephant journal, or stay tuned on my blog next week for tip 2 on How To Survive Family Gatherings With an Eating Disorder.


Forward Locomotion:

There are millions of people who suffer from eating disorders, and they impact millions of loved ones. A lot of eating disorders are a secret shame, so please SHARE THIS POST or the full post on elephant journal and help promote health and healing.

All it takes is one thing to initiate a moment of hope. That moment can spur people on to recovery and allow them to travel the road home to themselves.

With Love, Z :)

How To Survive Family Gatherings With an Eating Disorder

Z Zoccolante is a fully recovered anorexic/bulimic passionately dedicated to assisting others in their recovery. Her work appears in The Huffington Post, Psych Central, Adios Barbie, Peaceful Dumpling, and soon, the Surviving ED blog at In high school she developed a dysfunctional relationship with food, which overshadowed her next decade. After traveling the winding path of recovery, she won her happily ever after, and now uses the knowledge she gained to inspire people and deter others from the pointless path of skinny. She’s thrilled to announce her upcoming memoir, The Twisting War, which reveals the details of her journey, and is meant to help those with eating disorders attain happiness and freedom while also supporting the affected loved ones. For more empowerment around body image, food, and recovery, subscribe to Z’s weekly blog & audio at You can also get her directly at, 310-853-3271, or from her coaching page.


  1. You will give people hope who are dealing with eating disorders. It is so good to hear that you have recovered from your years of struggle. I hope your blogs and sharing of your personal life struggles will reach those who need hope and encouragement to find a positive result from their addictions. I am sure your loved ones family and friends never new how hard it was for you over the holidays and events. I am so happy to hear of your recovery and your perseverance to never give up. Wishing you love peace and great health in the New Year.

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    • Z Zoccolante

      Thank you. Yes, it can be difficult for family members when they see inside the world of someone with an eating disorder and how events and food can be a struggle. Eating disorders thrive in secrecy so it’s difficult for others to know in the first place. Through recovery people find that family members and friends can be great recovery supports. :)

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