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We know that Christmas can be a really difficult time of year for many people with eating disorders. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas yourself, it can be hard to avoid increased food talk, and the sense that this time should be spent having fun may make people feel isolated and pressured. This year, coronavirus restrictions around the country may mean you have additional worries about the coming festive season. The information on this page is to help you address some of the concerns you might have, and make plans to take care of your wellbeing.
It’s a good idea to talk with people you trust about your concerns and what they can do to support you during the run-up to Christmas and Christmas itself. Also remember that Beat’s Helpline does not close over Christmas; you can call us for support from 4pm – 8pm from 24 December through to 1 January.
You may be facing a Christmas that looks different to usual, for example if the three-household rule means you won’t be able to see everyone you usually do, if you’re struggling with travel arrangements, or if you or someone you’d usually see at Christmas feels there is significant risk to having Christmas as usual. At a time when careful planning can help so much with getting through the holiday, we understand this is very worrying for a lot of people.
We encourage you to think about what your Christmas might look like if your usual plans may not go ahead. This may help you to feel surer about what is going to happen and address areas where you may want to put in place extra support or ways to cope with difficult situations. You can download our template to help you with this.
We advise people to follow local and national guidance around coronavirus. However, you and those you’re spending Christmas with may feel differently about the level of risk, or interpret parts of the guidance differently. This may be difficult to navigate and could cause more anxiety at a time that is often already hard. It could help to write down your thoughts about the situation and what you’re personally comfortable with, then discuss this with the people you’d like to see at Christmas to see where there is common ground and where there may be room for compromise (within the boundaries of official guidance).
It may also be useful to think about what parts of your usual Christmas routine are necessary for your wellbeing, and which bits might be easier to change this year – for example, is there a particular person who usually supports you who you might be able to see by themselves rather than in a group?
It’s almost impossible to get away from food at this time of year, and this along with encouragement by others to “indulge” can be stressful or upsetting. It may create additional pressure to eat, or cause increased worry about bingeing.
It may have been a while since you’ve seen the people you’re spending Christmas with, or you may find yourself somewhere you didn’t expect to this year. Regardless, eating a meal in front of others can be really difficult, especially at this time of year when meals like Christmas dinner are seen as particularly important or special.
Lots of talk around food at this time of year can be difficult to hear, and even well-meaning comments on what you’re eating or how you look may be upsetting or triggering. This year, it may also be longer than usual since you’ve seen the people you’ll be spending Christmas with, or you may be spending your Christmas somewhere different to usual, so you may be particularly concerned about unhelpful comments.
Having a lot of extra food, perhaps that you normally wouldn’t buy, in the house at Christmas time can feel quite overwhelming. It might be worth talking this through with the people you are with at Christmas to help make it feel less daunting. Having a plan of where food will be in the house or whether things like chocolates will or will not be left out might be helpful.
It might be worth thinking about making a plan around early warning signs for binges, possible triggers and distraction techniques and support you might need if you feel the urge to binge. Planning these things ahead of time and talking it through with your support network could allow you to feel more prepared.
You may also want to think about a meal plan for Christmas Day, as restricting food could also lead to a binge.
Christmas is a really special time for many people, and if you have fond memories of Christmas, feeling like the eating disorder is disrupting that can be really upsetting.
People with eating disorders often mention that they feel a sense of guilt around the impact of their eating issues on others, especially at Christmas time. We’ve had positive feedback from families that suggest that doing things differently and promoting ‘connection’, ‘communication’ and ‘enjoyment’ at Christmas (that is not centred around food) has actually improved the experience of the whole family. We would encourage you to see this change in a positive way and try to avoid blaming yourself. It can be so hard when the feeling of guilt is overwhelming. If you are struggling with this feeling, try to reach out for support and talk it through with someone.