As the holiday season arrives in full swing, food quickly becomes the forefront of every holiday party and family gathering. During this season, many people struggling with an eating disorder have a very difficult time from being constantly surrounded by the triggers of food and often fear gaining weight. Even though the holidays can be a difficult time for people with eating disorders, you play a vital role in their eating disorder recovery. Providing unconditional love and support for someone battling an eating disorder can transform the process into an empowering experience.
What can you do to help someone you love cope with their eating disorder during this holiday season? You can make a tremendous difference in the life of a loved one during the holiday season by empathizing with them and creating a supportive environment. Becoming a supportive stronghold for those who have an eating disorder is the most important thing you can do to help them successfully continue on their recovery during this holiday season.
Tips to help your loved one with an eating disorder during this holiday season
Be Empathetic.-Try and take yourself out of your own shoes to understand your loved one. Learn about your loved one’s eating disorder, difficult moments, accomplishments, and recovery plan. Do background research and find out ways in which you can help someone recovering from an eating disorder cope by communicating that you are there for support and encouragement every step of the way.
Reach out to the person in your life and genuinely show your interest in their therapy sessions and ask your loved one what you can do to make their holiday season more memorable. Communication is key and showing that you care will show the person that they are not alone in their struggling moments.
Be a role model.- Model healthy behaviors during the holiday season. Be conscious of using trigger words and phrases such as “gaining weight.” Consider refraining from expressing any concerns about self-image or weight. Instead, focus your thoughts on positive attributes that you and your loved one embody and celebrate the individual’s accomplishments and recovery thus far. This will set a precedent for positive language and a sense of self-worth within your loved one’s environment.
Create new traditions.- Although the holiday season can be stressful at times, finding ways to make it more enjoyable and meaningful is key for someone recovering from an eating disorder. Schedule fun, new activities to do with your loved one to help them cope with their eating disorder. Go shopping, go see a new movie, or have a family game night. Whatever it is, be conscious of your loved one’s actions and make sure they have fun while still maintaining a nutritional balance.
It is difficult to avoid holiday gatherings that do not revolve around food. Be proactive and make healthy meals during the holiday season. Cooking new, healthy recipes can be a perfect bonding opportunity for you to cook with your loved one by making healthier versions of traditional, holiday favorites. Whether it is taking a dish to a friend’s house or inviting people over to your home, pre-planning healthy dishes and snacks will provide more options and support so that your loved one can still have fun during these social events.
Encourage a routine.- Make sure that your loved one is still going to their scheduled therapy sessions and is using the coping mechanisms learned in therapy to be productive in moments of difficulty. Coping mechanisms can include self-soothing techniques such as positive self-talk, meditation, yoga, writing, or exercising.
Be an encouraging teammate and show that you are willing to do activities with your loved one to help get through difficult moments. Go to a yoga class together to release feelings of stress from the holidays . Whether it is going to the movies or going shopping, make sure that you are encouraging a routine and helping your loved one incorporate what they enjoy to do during this holiday season.
Plan fun events.- Take a day trip and do something fun while pre-planning snacks and food stops. Getting your loved one out of their normal environments will help distract them during struggling moments during the holiday season. Planning a fun day trip can also diminish stress caused by the rush of the holidays. Taking a break and planning out fun activities in a new location is the perfect getaway option from the normal environmental and social stressors during the holiday season.
Empowering loved ones by empathizing with them and making sure they have fun during the holiday season is essential in helping them recover from their eating disorder. Ensuring that they continue on schedule with their therapy sessions and helping them overcome difficult moments every step of the way are the foundations for providing a loving and supportive environment for your loved ones during this holiday season.