Christmas is an unusual time of year that promises great happiness, cheer, and other expectations that may not be realistic. As a result, it can be quite stressful for many.
For someone with an eating disorder, there are particular difficulties. The traditional focus on food as integral to celebrations can be extremely anxiety-provoking. Over-indulgence can seem to be a central part of Christmas. For someone who struggles to eat enough and fears weight gain, the expectation of eating in this context is terrifying. For those who have difficulties with compulsive or binge eating, the abundance of food is equally frightening.
Festive gatherings of friends, family and colleagues can also feel like a minefield in terms of the topic of conversation. It is not uncommon for people to talk about their over-indulgence and plan weight loss through strict diet and exercise regimes in January. This focus on food and weight-related issues can fuel eating disordered thoughts and drives.
When an eating disorder is known this can result in well-meant comments about appearance. Whether it is concern about looking unwell or praise for looking well, this can heighten eating disorder thoughts and cause distress.
Tips for sufferers
- Try to plan eating carefully to take into account festive gatherings, preferably with a professional.
- Try to enlist the support of people close to you.
- Try to explain what would be helpful to others in order to support you.
- Try to focus on the way forward for you, regardless of what is going on around you
Tips for family and loved ones
- Ask what would be helpful/unhelpful.
- Try to move conversations away from topics of food, weight and anything related
- Try to focus on other aspects of enjoying time together