“For so many, the holidays are a painful, difficult season. What do you see your clients struggling with most during this time of the year?” The interviewer was Dr. Connie Mariano, former White House Physician and my esteemed colleague, her sensitive question posed during a recent taping for her new Dr. Connie Radio Show.
Over the previous hour, our holiday-themed discussion had run the gamut from how to emotionally survive the milestone first Christmas following the death of a loved one, to how to heal from not-so-jolly memories of Christmas’ past. Tough, emotion-laden challenges, made that much more poignant during the holiday season.
In response to her question, I thoughtfully replayed the myriad of therapeutic hours I had recently spent embracing the pain and circumstances of my clients’ lives during this most recent holiday season and, a bit astonished even within myself, shook my head and replied, “They are worried about what they might eat over the holidays.”
Whether anorexic or obese, bulimic or binge-eater, my therapeutic sofa at A New Beginning, the outpatient eating disorder treatment facility which I own and direct in Scottsdale, Arizona, is being worn thin by anxious clients, eating disordered AND non-eating disordered, who are obsessive and worried over the possibility of succumbing to food over the holidays.
Research related to this phenomenon dishearteningly supports my therapeutic experience. Specifically, a survey conducted by Mental Health America reported that concern over “overindulgence” during the holiday season causes a significant amount of stress in 28% of the American population, a full percentage point higher than the stress associated with “being alone.” Similarly, television ads aired during winter months focus excessively on the stress associated with “holiday weight gain” and emphasize the need to lose weight in the coming New Year.
Concerned and intrigued, Dr. Connie leaned in towards the studio microphone and asked, “So tell us, Dr. Julie, how do you help your clients to stop overindulging during the holidays?”