5 Ways to Support Loved Ones with Eating Disorders During the Holidays

Written by Francine Baffa, LICSW, BCBA-D 
Edited by Joe DeNoon

 

CW://: This blog discusses Eating Disorders/Disordered Eating

 

Gathering around friends and family during the holiday season can stir up warm and cozy feelings. Yet sometimes, these festive occasions come with increased stress levels, and for some people, holiday events built around meals can intensify feelings of anxiety and depression or present triggers. This makes stress management, self-care, and mindfulness all the more important to remain on your priority list this season, especially if you’re living with or recovering from an eating disorder (ED). Symptoms can vary depending on the condition, including binging or purging food, restricting food, overexercising, and more. Food cues and relationship dynamics can send someone with an ED into a reactive state, making them feel vulnerable to unhealthy coping mechanisms and compulsive behaviors. 

 

If you know someone with an eating disorder, here are some thoughtful and kind ways to support them during this tough season:

  • Avoid conversations about weight, food, or diets. It’s easy to make offhand remarks about how “stuffed” you are or how you’re going to need a workout after that turkey dinner. But for someone with an eating disorder, these kinds of comments can cause great anxiety. Be mindful of your language!
  • Refrain from urging others to eat or commenting on how much or the amount they consume.
  • Plan activities that are not centered around eating. Playing board games, going out to look at holiday lights, watching movies—all of these can be done without focusing on food.
  • Learn about the person’s particular disorder—the causes, the challenges, and the coping strategies. Knowing more will help you better support your loved one.
  • Remind them that you love and care about them!

Above all, remember that you cannot change their behavior—you can only change your own. Part of being an ally means letting the person go on their own journey, so instead, support them at every step by being as thoughtful, compassionate, and aware as possible.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, help and support are available. “The National Alliance for Eating Disorders provides a free therapist-staffed helpline and interactive online referral database, as well as many free, weekly, therapist-led support groups.” – @alliancefored

Call: 866.662.1235

Text: ALLIANCE to 741-741

Email: [email protected]

Visit: allianceforeatingdisorders.com

 

Blog topic inspiration: @alliancefored, @notalonechallenge, @inspiringchildren

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