Whilst for many Christmas is a time of celebration, for people living with an eating disorder it can be a particularly stressful time. Christmas festivities typically include catching up with family and friends, accompanied by an abundance of delicious food. For those with an eating disorder, this can lead to increased anxiety and distress as they contemplate the expectation to eat with others and eat foods deemed as “unsafe” by the eating disorder.
The follow tips could help make Christmas a little more manageable:
For people with an eating disorder:
- Plan what you intend to eat ahead of time. This can take some of the stress out of decision making. Discuss your plan with a trusted support person who can provide encouragement to stick with the plan.
- If wanting to challenge yourself, pick a small challenge and ask for support to achieve it e.g. ask mum to give you a plate with two rum balls after the main meal to challenge yourself to eat some dessert.
- If unsure about portion sizes, pick a family member to be a “food role model” (as long as they don’t have an eating disorder themselves). Model your portion sizes on their portions.
- Play your favourite music during the meal, this could help manage anxiety levels.
- Plan to do a relaxing or distracting activity after the meal e.g. watch a funny movie, listen to calming music or play a board game with family member. Give those eating disorder thoughts less room to flourish.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
- Be gentle with yourself. Remember, Christmas is just one day of the year.
For family and friends of those with an individual with an eating disorder:
- Chat with your loved one whilst eating meals together about topics unrelated to food and weight. Distraction can be a way of helping the individual to avoid dwelling on eating disorder driven thoughts.
- Don’t comment on food choices or amounts eaten. It could be a major achievement for your loved one to be willing to eat with others.
- Don’t talk about your own or others weight or dieting efforts. This could be triggering for your loved one.
- Try to carrying on with regular conversations and don’t grill your loved one with questions related to their condition, if they don’t willingly bring up the topic. It can be nice to feel normal.
- If your loved one appears to be struggling, take the opportunity to discretely ask if there is anything you can do to help.
- Remember Christmas is a particularly challenging time for your loved one, and recovery from an eating disorder takes a long time. Don’t put too many expectations on the day.
- Know that your support is invaluable to them.
Those with an eating disorder:
Family and carers:
Keep an eye out on Myrtle Oak Clinic’s Facebook page for updates.
- NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
- Lifeline: 131 114
- Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
- The Butterfly Foundation Hotline: 1800 33 4673
- Health Direct: 1800 022 222
- Ambulance or Police: 000
Myrtle Oak Clinic encourages all clients to maintain medical monitoring throughout the festive season. Please seek emergency assistance if you have any concerns for your mental or physical health.