This is the second part to Coping with an eating disorder at Christmas, I feel that it’s important to know how to support someone else. I really appreciate that a lot of peoples actions are out of love but this post is from someone who has gone through recovery and I know what was and wasn’t good for me.
*Once again, I’m not an expert, these are my opinions and experiences.
Onto the guide…
Don’t comment on how they look
With compliments, regardless of whether they have an eating disorder, do not comment on their weight! That’s rule 101. Just whatever you say, do not say ‘you look well’ – you might think this ok to say but the person who you are saying it to, won’t interpret the way you meant it. I’ve had multiple people tell me this when I was really struggling and it just made me feel guilty.
Minimise social expectations
It’s likely that they will already feel anxious enough without having to talk to lots of people on top of that. A lot of people are very aware of how much/little they are eating and it can be a massive challenge to eat in front of one person, let alone lots of extended family members.
Don’t smother them
It’s important to let them breathe. I know that you probably want to just let them know they are loved and try to make everything easier but it is important to let them have some time alone too.
Alternatively, they may want to be watching the whole cooking process which is ok too. For some people, letting someone else cook is a massive achievement.
Whichever it is, be patient ❤
Don’t rush them
They are trying their hardest and you don’t know how they feel beforehand. They might have to mentally prepare themselves for the meal or whatever, so just give them some time. Especially don’t sigh loudly!
If you can see them struggling, then you could potentially ask if there’s anything you can do – but you’ve gotta be really gentle ❤
Avoid conversations about dieting
The WORST thing is when someone says ‘I’ve been on a diet for x weeks so that I can indulge and have this meal’ or ‘I’m gonna have to hit the gyms after all this Christmas food’. It might make them feel like they’re eating too much which then leads to more guilt than what they may have already been feeling.
Furthermore, don’t comment on what anyone else is eating. Things like ‘leave some for us’ or ‘is that all you are eating?’ lead to a negative impact. You might think it is great that they are eating more, do NOT comment on it! They will already be self-conscious that they’re eating more. Also, don’t comment if they are eating less – yes, you might have hoped they would eat more but pointing it out can feel like you have someone constantly watching your every move which is not a nice feeling.
If anyone does bring up weight, new years resolutions to do with dieting etc. then please please divert the conversation and talk about something else. The person struggling will be so thankful even if they don’t show it at the time.
Involve them in meal planning
Yes, not everyone will want to do this. But this is something that could help someone by knowing what they are eating in advance so that they can prepare themselves. Even if it isn’t a specific thing, maybe just like Monday will be pasta, Tuesday a roast, Wednesday a burger etc.
Also, if for some reason plans have to change, give as much notice as possible. Change is something that everyone struggles with so make sure that you explain why it had to change and give them time to work through it ❤
I have created a weekly meal planner template that includes space for 3 meals and snacks!
Don’t expect too much
It is completely possible that there will be fear foods out on the table at Christmas. Yes, it is a good idea to challenge fear foods but not all at once. If you pile on too many fear foods, it can be too hard and there might be too much guilt which can halt the whole recovery process. If you offer something and they say no, please don’t force them to eat it xx
Take the focus away from food
Whilst Christmas food is yummy and the dinner is a big deal, it isn’t everything that Christmas is about. It is about spending time with your loved ones, giving presents, having fun etc. So, as soon as the meal is over, concentrate on something else. It is likely that they will be feeling guilty so the best thing to do is distract, distract, distract! Board games are something that I always love and are a great distraction ❤
I hope this has helped xx
Best wishes, Cx