5 Ways My Family Can Help Me Survive the Holidays With an Eating Disorder
The holiday season is full of tantalizing aromas, unforgettable memories with loved ones and mouthwatering food…which can make the festivities incredibly challenging for people with eating disorders. Here are five ways my family can help me through my eating disorder this holiday season.
1. Listen to my needs — then try to meet them.
It always helps to have someone in your corner during the holidays when your family has a political brawl over dinner, but having a strong support system can be even more meaningful in life with an eating disorder. If I’ve taken the time to confide in you about the specific types of support I need in difficult moments this holiday season, please try your hardest to help me in the ways that suit me best. If you can’t fully soothe my fears in the moment, don’t worry — I appreciate any efforts you do make, and will certainly tell you so.
2. Skip the exercise talk.
Don’t get me wrong; if you successfully completed your first Turkey Trot, I’m proud of you. But if you spend the brunt of the family holiday dinner explicitly detailing every step of your latest exercise regimen, please be mindful that a holiday gathering may not be the most appropriate setting to share all about your foray into workout culture. Sitting down to a scrumptious feast at a crowded table is challenging enough for me, but discussing routines that could trigger my disorder make the holidays substantially less merry and bright.
3. Don’t share how much you love your new diet.
Diet culture permeates media, and new diets often become bandwagon trends, so it’s only natural to feel compelled to rave about your brand-new plan. But no matter how much you want to tout your new lifestyle, please don’t. For me and so many others who struggle with eating disorder thoughts, hearing you eagerly share about your diets or complain about how much dietary “progress” you need to make after scarfing down those irresistible Christmas cookies can stir up urges that make savoring a delicious turkey dinner extremely difficult.
4. Don’t comment on the amount of food on my plate.
You may only have the best intentions when you point out how much (or little) turkey is gracing my plate, but please remember that remarks about serving size can be a surefire conduit to eating disorder thoughts. As I serve my holiday meal, I may already be anxiously thinking about the types of food I’ll be eating and how the portion sizes will affect me later. Virtually no one enjoys hearing offhand comments about their food choices, but that sentiment can apply tenfold for people with eating disorders. So please be gentle so that the holidays can be a little more “Ho-ho-ho” and a little less “Oh, no!”
5. Respect my triggers.
If I gently mention that your offhand remark about your favorite “American Ninja Warrior” stunts, or how stuffed you feel after dinner triggered me, please don’t object. I promise I’m not calling you out, hindering your right to free speech or forcing you in the precarious position of needing to censor everything you say. On the contrary, I’m simply making you aware that my eating disorder is activated, and I’ll make sure to clearly explain the “why” behind the trigger and kindly steer you towards alternate phrasing or topics. After all, when you love someone, you strive to keep them safe, and I promise that if you ever feel uncomfortable with something I say, I’ll extend the same respect for your needs that you extend to mine.
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Getty image via AlexRaths.