We know Christmas can be a difficult time for people with eating disorders. We talked to our Helpline Manager, Sam, about some of the common questions her team gets around this time of year, and her insights and tips for dealing with the challenges of Christmastime, whether you have an eating disorder or are supporting someone you care about.
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.
Changes to routine, whether one developed as part of the eating disorder or one that is helping you in recovery, can be difficult too. During Christmas Day and in the days around it, snacks may be more readily available, or foregone out of desire to “save ourselves for Christmas dinner”; people might eat at different times to when they usually would.
What might help?
Having people around who aren’t usually there can lead to worry about what they’ll think, or about routine being disrupted. This can increase anxiety around eating at a time that is already difficult. People who aren’t as familiar with the eating disorder might also feel nervous about what they should do or say.
Lots of talk around food at this time of year can be difficult to hear, and even well-meaning comments on what someone is eating or how they look may not be heard the way they’re intended, especially if they are or seem to be comparing you to how you looked previously. Intended compliments like “You’re looking well” might sound like a remark on weight, for example.
Perhaps you usually go out for Christmas dinner and the eating disorder means it’s best to stay home, or maybe you usually have edible stocking fillers that you’re concerned about this year. Lots of people might feel sad or guilty about having to break with tradition, or struggle with the expectation that everyone should constantly have fun and be happy at Christmastime.
We all need downtime sometimes, and this might especially be the case if you’ve spent a lot of time surrounded by food and people. It’s good to discuss this with the people you’ll be spending the day with. Being on your own might be helpful for you, but if there are worries about bingeing or purging, you can still have time to “recharge” with other people around.
Not everyone is the same, and things that some people find really useful may cause others to feel anxious or stressed. But planning together, talking about concerns, and figuring out strategies that work for you and the people you’ll be spending Christmas with can help the day go much more smoothly and ensure you can still have a positive Christmas with your loved ones. And if you or anyone else is struggling, remember our Helpline is open 4 – 8pm from 24 December to 1 January.
From all here at Beat, we wish you a peaceful Christmas.