When Maria’s 20-year-old daughter Monica arrived for the Christmas holidays, she looked weak and thin. She skipped meals, did lot of physical exercise and avoided confrontations with the family members. Every time Maria cooked her favorite dishes, Monica would cringe at the site of food and avoid even tasting it. It wasn’t long enough for her mother to understand that her young daughter was struggling with an eating disorder, the symptoms of which were aggravated during holidays because of the increased exposure to food.
Like Monica, nearly 30 million Americans of all gender and ages are struggling with an eating disorder. People with disordered eating patterns find it hard to cope during the holidays because of easy availability to food and being around the loved ones who pester them to eat. However, family members and friends should understand that a person afflicted with an eating disorder has a tough time adjusting to his/her surroundings and should be empathized with and supported so that the festivity can turn into a pleasant experience for them.
Though recovery from eating disorders demands clinical diagnosis and treatment, partners, families and friends can do their own bit and offer help in the following ways:
- Talking about triggers: If someone is aware about a friend or family member’s unhealthy eating patterns, it is important to have a conversation before the holidays begin. It is important to draw a list of triggers and keep them away from those suffering. The loved one should provide an assurance to such people that they will be supported during the holidays and that every possible effort would be made to make it a memorable time in a positive way.
- Organizing an event which is not food-centric: One can take the lead and break the tradition of gathering around the food table full of indulgent foods, as this can induce anxiety for the one struggling with an eating disorder. Instead, one can organize a visit to the museum, hiking trip or movie screening. The idea is to make it event-centric rather than food-specific. This gives more time to the person to unwind, connect with the loved ones and indulge in meaningful activities instead of obsessing over food.
- Not talking about weight, calories and portion control: The loved ones should understand that the person they are talking to might be extremely sensitive to talks about food, weight and calories. It is best to avoid bringing up discussions involving such words.
- Keeping things simple: Holidays should be planned in such a way that food and everything else is kept simple and small. Organizing extensive meals and excessive travel plans to meet different relatives can get overwhelming for the one living with an eating disorder.
- Offering empathy and not advice: One must let go of the temptation to bombard the distressed person with advice regarding their eating habits. Instead, one must be respectful and offer empathy in a nonjudgmental way. This assures the person that he/she is genuinely loved and being cared for.
Eating disorders are treatable
Dealing with an eating disorder is challenging and even when one is treated, there is a good chance of relapse. Sovereign Health strongly advocates and believes that recovery is a lifelong process. We firmly believe that treatment is just one step in the recovery process and patients deserve aftercare to develop coping skills.
Our experts follow up with all our alumni on a regular basis to build an everlasting support system after they leave our facilities. Once the treatment is over, it is important to sustain and nurture the relationships developed during the course of the program so that recovery is long-lasting. For more information about our recovery management programs and how you can benefit from it, call our 24/7 helpline 866-501-9425 or chat online with a representative.