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Food and Nutrition Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Dec 5, 2017 - 9:44:14 AM

How to Deal with Eating Disorders and the Holidays

By Staff Editor
Dec 5, 2017 - 9:38:40 AM

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( - There is no good time to be struggling with an eating disorder, but the holidays would likely rank as one of the worse. Parties, social events, and meetings with family all often center around the dinner table. And for a person in recovery from an eating disorder, this can be a challenging situation.

National surveys show that approx. 20 million women in American will be afflicted with anorexia, bulimia, or a binge eating disorder at some point in their life. The estimates for men are at 10 million. The rates of eating disorders among adolescent girls are even higher, with a total of 13.2 percent suffering from an eating disorder before age 20.

According to EDCare, an anorexia treatment center, "There are two types of Anorexia. The Restricting Type, as the name suggests, severely restricts food intake. The Binge-Eating/Purging Type involves going on food binges and/or purges." Clearly, the holidays can serve as a trigger for those with an eating disorder who are tempted with binge-eating and purging.

Here are some pointers from experts on eating disorders and the holidays.

Our body image reference needs reframing

Individuals with eating disorders often suffer from a skewed perspective of their body. They tend to see themselves as overweight, even when they are severely underweight. The reasons leading up to a skewed body image perspective are often cited as coming from social peer pressure to be thin. In a study by Stanford University, they found 70 percent of women felt worse about their bodies after reading fashion magazines. There are other reasons that a person may develop an eating disorder, but a negative body image remains one of the primary reasons.

Individuals should protect themselves from media messaging that focuses on an unrealistic ideal. Family and friends should provide support as well. They can do this by keeping comments and conversation focused on achievements, activities, and goals. And keep to a minimum other non-surface appearance related observations about movie stars, etc.

Allow a trusted individual to make food choices

If a person is struggling with an eating disorder, he or she should get help from someone they trust. Having a support system can help them through the feeling of overwhelm when faced with a room full of food. Let the person they trust serve them a plate, and stick with that. People with an eating disorder often have a distorted view of how much food is good or what is enough, or a complicated list of "good" foods and "bad" foods.

The individual can put it in the hands of a trusted family member and friend so that they do not need to deal with the overwhelm at the dinner table.

Support groups for dealing with negative emotions positively

Dissatisfaction and other negative emotions can lead to binging or purging. So finding a way to deal with negative emotions is an essential aspect of recovery for those with eating disorders. Even though the holidays tend to be busy, for the person with an eating disorder, attending a support group meeting should be on the priority list. A support group will be able to provide the type of understanding that those suffering from the same affliction can give. They can help with strategies for staying calm. They may be able to provide tips for talking oneself down from feelings of disgust.

If there is no official support group for the individual to join within their proximity, he or she could create one. Loved ones can be that support system or support group for the individual. They can discuss and brainstorm with the individual ways that he or she can cope with negative emotions or difficult situations. Having a strategy in place for dealing with tense times during the holidays will help the individual avoid feelings of overwhelm.

Avoid certain discussions related to bodies and image

Experts recommend one avoids discussing the appearance of a person with an eating disorder. Even if the individual appears to be doing better. This can trigger panic thoughts within the individual concerning weight gain. As a general guideline, keep talk away from bodies and weight gain and diet.

Having simple rules in place for conversation can help to steer the conversation and keep it acceptable for all listeners. Send out an email beforehand, or add a line at the bottom of the invite stating what the "rules" are for mealtime conversation. This way you do not need to broach the topic when everyone is gathered, but all will know your preference beforehand.


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