For the majority, the holiday season is a time for family and joy. However, for those with eating disorders, it can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Thanksgiving, which typically revolves around food (like my favorite Scandinavian treat - Lefse) and eating, can be particularly triggering to sufferers. It can fill their heads with anxiety over the food, how much they think they will have to eat, whether or not their family will be “watching” them for eating disorder symptoms, and weight and calories. These anxieties, which are normally troublesome for those who struggle, are usually escalated during the holiday season.
Instead of focusing on time spent with family and loved ones, it is all too easy for sufferers to turn their focus to food. It could be that they are expected to snack all day, rather than sticking to the three meals and two to three snacks that are recommended by professionals. This can cause undue anxiety, as it may be an upset to their eating schedule.
So what are some ways to deal with the holiday stress? As a family member or loved one of someone with an eating disorder, it is important to take the focus off of the food. One way to do this is by keeping the sufferer engaged in conversation throughout the meals, as it is all too easy for a person who struggles to get stuck in their heads and eating disorder thoughts.
Another idea is to offer distractions during and after a meal. See my pic below for an idea. This could be done by playing a game after eating, going on a walk, watching a movie or a TV show, or keeping the conversation going.
While it is important not to be the “food police” during the holidays, it is also important to watch for eating disorder symptoms, such as restricting food intake, or purging after eating. If these symptoms are noticed, it is important to approach the person with the eating disorder to express concern in a constructive way as to help the person decrease symptom use.
While the holidays are a time for celebration, it is also key to remember that those with eating disorders may be having a particularly hard time. Using these tips may be a helpful way to guide your loved one through this stressful time.
Here's to a Happy Thanksgiving with no weight comments. :)
Founder, Hope Network, LLC