Helping Your Loved One With Their Eating Disorder
The holidays are an exciting time of the year. From enjoying seasonal traditions to valuable time spent with family and friends, the holidays often present a time of joy, peace, and comfort. Unfortunately, for over 30 million people struggling with an eating disorder, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can often trigger overwhelming feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame. This time of year can often be a challenge for them, and as their loved one, it can also be challenging for you.
- How can I be supportive?
For those suffering from an eating disorder, holidays can be overwhelming and many may find themselves feeling depressed or down rather than joyous and jovial. As a loved one, you may wonder how you can help ease some of the anxiety and offer love and support, especially during the holiday season. Here are a few things you can do to pave the way for a supportive environment.
- Do have a conversation.
Before the festivities and gatherings begin, talk to your loved one about any anxiety they are currently exhibiting, and ask them how you can help alleviate any challenges they may be anticipating. By having an open and honest conversation, you are showing your support and can help relieve some of the uncertainty and feelings of isolation they may be experiencing.
- Do talk to their treatment team.
A conversation with your loved one and their treatment team can help you develop a relapse prevention plan. This will give you the tools you need to understand the routines that are vital to their recovery and help you to be more aware of the support they may need during holiday gatherings.
- Do let them know recovery comes first.
Letting your loved one know that you understand the importance of their recovery is a key element for success. Supporting your loved one in this journey may mean changing some of your holiday traditions, which can also be helpful in showing your loved one that you truly care and are willing to meet them where they are in their recovery journey.
- Do set an example.
Commenting on your physical appearance can be triggering to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder. Criticizing your body or appearance can cause them to be even more critical of their body. Think about your words and set an example by being having a positive body image.
- Do not “food police.”
You may feel tempted to monitor the food your loved one does or does not eat, which can could cause increased anxiety. Unless the treatment team has given you a plan to monitor your loved one’s portion sizes and food choices, it is better to avoid the role of being the “food police” and offer support where necessary.
- Do not comment.
Be mindful of your comments. Sometimes our good intentional comments can be interpreted as harmful and judgmental. Commenting on weight loss or gain or body shape and size can have a negative effect on their interpretation of their body and can hinder their recovery process. Instead, offer comments regarding their intellect, hobbies, and things not involving their bodies.
- Do not use “diet culture” or disordered talk.
The endless talk around the table about exercise, weight gain, or fad diet can set your loved one on a toxic path and typically goes unnoticed around the dinner table. Remain mindful of your dinner talk and when “diet culture” or disordered talk arises, be prepared to change the subject.
Taking steps to welcome your loved one home for the holidays is an important part of their sustained recovery. The most important thing you can do is let them know you are supportive of their recovery. Remind them you love them and you are thankful to have them in your life.
At Toledo Center, we work with adolescents and adults of all genders to help them find a life of freedom from eating disorders. We understand that each person is unique; therefore, we work with clients to customize an individualized treatment plan to meet their specific needs. Using evidence-based therapy that integrates individual, group, and family therapy, our expert professionals partner with our clients as they navigate their recovery journey. For more information about our residential treatment program, call our admissions team, or complete our contact form.