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A Christmas Toolbox – Coping at Christmas with an Eating Disorder

Uncategorized  /  19th December 2018  /  0 Comments

It’s that time of year again, the shops are full of Christmas Fayre, the lights are lit, and pretty much anyone dealing with an eating disorder in their midst will be trying to quell that nervous feeling that Christmas is around the corner.

So here is our Christmas Toolbox. There are lots of different ideas so pick and choose those that might work in your household. Please feel free to forward this on to anyone else who might find it useful. A little bit of pre-planning in the weeks up to Christmas can really help to keep things calmer and more enjoyable for the whole family over the Christmas break.

Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many people, but for people with eating disorders and their families, the prospect of Christmas can be horrendous.

Why?

  • There is food everywhere..
  • Everywhere is crowded
  • There is food everywhere..
  • People are loud & insensitive
  • There is food everywhere..
  • Parties seem to go on for days
  • There is food everywhere..
  • Everyone else seems happy
  • There is food everywhere..
  • Everyone wants you to be happy
  • There is food everywhere..
  • Everyone is watching you (or so it seems)
  • There is food everywhere..

Did you know, the average calorie consumption per person in the UK on Christmas day is 8,000!

 

So, what can you do to prepare for Christmas and try and make it less stressful?

Here are a few of our TOP TIPS:

 1) Keep it in perspective

A good trick is to draw a line down the middle of a large piece of paper and divide it into 12 months/ 52 weeks / 365 days (whichever you feel like). Then highlight the bit which is Christmas. Suddenly it looks very small and perhaps more manageable. Then draw a line for Christmas day or any other celebration day and again highlight the bits that absolutely have to involve food. Make these times as specific as you possibly can.

2) Plan for Christmas day

Your loved one is very unlikely to be able to enjoy Christmas if the main focus is on food. This year we have talked at length in our Group meetings about the importance of avoiding food weight and shape talk which can make mealtimes seem too important, and almost certainly stressful.  We have also practised drawing on our own resources of calm, courage, patience, empathy, love, warmth, kindness etc to try to reduce the high emotions of difficult times with our loved ones with an eating disorder. Several of our families have found a great strategy is to plan to have a fairly ordinary meal on Christmas day. Perhaps offer your loved one a choice (is fish easier for them than turkey and sausages?) Once it is eaten all the food can be cleared away and the family can focus on other things they enjoy doing. Plan to go for a long walk, play games, watch a good film, play some music, do some dancing etc. Suddenly Christmas is a time that can be enjoyed by the whole family, even the person with the eating disorder. See also the poster idea below

3) Give your loved one a free pass

Let your loved one know that you empathise with the challenges that they might face throughout this festive period. Let them know that they are allowed to take time out if they need it. Plan ahead so you have a code so that they can signal to you that they need to take a break without everyone else needing to know. You might pre-arrange for a sibling or favourite Aunt to be ready to go out for a walk with the dog and your loved one if it all gets too much.

4) Plan for the rest of the Christmas period

Doesn’t that time between Christmas and New Year seem to last forever and involve so much food & drink? Plan activities that the whole family can enjoy which don’t revolve around food. Once Christmas day is over there is plenty to do…… cinema, theatre, shopping, activity days out, unusual events (one of our families does swim in the sea, yes the English Channel, every Boxing day & they all really enjoy it). Again, try to keep mealtimes as normal as possible & then put the food away. Much easier for your loved ones & much better for all your waistlines.

 5) Keep those unhelpful relatives in control

We all have a well-meaning granny or uncle who will walk in with massive welly boots and trample over your loved one’s fragile emotions.

“Haven’t you done well eating that meal?”

“Shouldn’t you eat a bit more?”

“Gosh you do look well” (normally interpreted as fat)

“Wow you have put on weight”

are not helpful comments and can ruin the whole day.

Brief those relatives beforehand that such comments are unhelpful and unwelcome, or if you can’t trust them not to say something potentially inflammatory, then think twice about inviting them.

Having a blanket rule for everyone can help – “we will not talk about food, weight or shape today” – although someone might forget this and trip up.

 6)  Role play with how to deal with insensitive comments beforehand.

Practice how best to respond to insensitive comments. Life is full of people who say the wrong thing at the wrong time and part of recovery is learning to deal with this. Some useful strategies to divert attention away from the insensitive comment might include:

  • Change the subject
  • Tell a funny joke
  • Blow loudly on a party blower
  • Have a code (eg a loud cough) and a free pass to walk away
  • Think up some useful phrases (for carer or ED sufferer to say) and practice saying them beforehand:
  • “We agreed not to make comments about food today”
  • “Could we change the subject”
  • “It is not helpful for me at the moment if people talk about food, weight or shape”
  • “I would prefer it if we could talk about something else”

We hope these tips might help you navigate through any difficult moments surrounding food at Christmas time.

If you need any extra help, please contact us today! 

 


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