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Coping with Christmas a helpful guide for those caring for or suffering with Eating Disorders

S

*Sapphire*

Guest
Coping with Christmas a helpful guide for those caring for or suffering with Eating Disorders

Hi, Christmas can be such a difficult time for those suffering with Eating Disorders as the festivities can include an over-abundance of food, social Christmas meals as well as seeing relatives you may not have seen for a while. All of this can present huge pressures and challenges for those suffering with Eating Disorders and their carers.

I have found something similar to this leaflet most helpful for preparing myself and others around me for what could have been a difficult time. And it has led to me and others around me having some fairly enjoyable Christmases even though I was unwell.

I hope you find it of use....:)

http://www.swedauk.org/leaflets/christmas.htm

Coping at Christmas

Most people agree that Christmas time can be a stressful time of year for families. This can be particularly true when someone in the family is struggling with an eating disorder or won’t come home because of their difficulties with food and socializing .

It might be helpful to get together with the person, and to think ahead about possible strategies that might enable you to help them to cope with any Christmas pressures.

If this is not possible at the moment, because the eating disorder is very strong, this booklet contains ideas that others have found useful.

Christmas Difficulties

Many people have told us that Christmas can be a particularly stressful time for them -with the season’s emphasis on family get-togethers, having a good time and food.

Often the Christmas period is one time of year when many close and distant relatives meet up to enjoy time together.

For the person with eating difficulties and distress at social gatherings, Christmas may mean they are expected to eat meals with relatives who don’t know about their’ struggles with food, eating and body-image issues. People then feel exposed , guilty ashamed and may avoid coming home.

The sense of a daughter or son being on their own at Christmas can be very hard for the rest of the family too.

The distress and anxiety provoked by this can cause tears, panic attacks, angry outbursts or total avoidance, which can lead to arguments and an atmosphere of tension.

There may also be fears about being pressurised to indulge in rich food, or having to take part in conversations about food and eating.

Below are some of the common situations that an eating disorder might use to make the person feel bad:


  • Having to eat in front of lots of people,
  • People being uneasy around the someone with an eating disorder, and not knowing what to say,
  • Arguments about what and how much to eat,
  • Relatives commenting on weight, shape or diets, their own and others.
  • Many people have said that being rushed during a meal makes them very distressed. Gentle, sensitive reminders about the time can be helpful though. This can help prevent meals from dragging endlessly on.
  • Not joining in and being happy
  • Not coming home for Christmas or not staying long enough
  • Although it is common for encouraging friends and relatives to mention how well someone looks, the person in recovery may think this is a polite way of saying they have gained weight and look fat.

Common problems:

People watching every mouthful the person eats, or commenting on their eating habits and behaviours,

Comments about portion sizes or choices of foods,

Encouragement to eat more, or to eat ‘fear foods’ such as chocolate,

Having to eat in front of lots of people,

People being uneasy around the your family membbr, and not knowing what to say,

Arguments about what and how much to eat,

Relatives commenting on weight, shape or diets, their own and others.

Although it is common for encouraging friends and relatives to mention how well someone looks, the person in recovery may think this is a polite way of saying they have gained weight and look fat.

Many people have said that being rushed during a meal makes them very distressed.

Gentle, sensitive reminders about the time can be helpful though. This can help prevent meals from dragging endlessly on.

What may help?

People who have had an eating disorder have come up with a list of strategies that they found helpful.

It is important to remember though that everyone is different, and what helps one person may be distressing to another. For this reason it may be more helpful to ask the person to decide what helps them, and what doesn’t. At the end of this booklet, after these lists, there are some questions that might be useful for this process.

General points

It can help to firmly tell family members and friends who know about the eating disorder not to comment on the person’s appearance, or what/how much food is being eaten.

It can be helpful to give family and friends information to help them understand more about eating disorders. It is often misunderstood and misrepresented in the media, which does not help the sufferer.

It will be helpful to remember the level of anxiety people with an eating disorder can feel, and to act in a supportive, non-judgemental way.

The person may find unsolicited questions about their problems difficult to deal with (especially whilst eating). If however they openly discuss a topic associated with their personal struggles, it can be helpful to talk about these.

It is best to actively avoid talking about dieting, or making weight or appearance related comments (about anyone).

The Environment

It is best to try and achieve a relaxed, normal environment, which will help the person to remember that mealtimes are a healthy part of everyday life.

It is good if there is no ‘rushing about’ at meal times.

Before a meal

The contents and serving size of a meal should be decided in advance, because on-the-spot decisions can be much more stressful, and may upset the meal.

It might be easier to serve the meals away from the table, so the person avoids the stress of wondering if their portion size is Ok.

If everyone else is serving themselves however, it can draw unwanted attention, so it may be easier to have a supporter sitting next to the person, so the person with the E.D. can copy their portion.

During a meal

During the meal, it can be really helpful to initiate talk about general topics and light current affairs, to distract from their anxieties. The struggle with the eating disorder can be very preoccupying though, which can make it hard for the person to be actively involved in the conversation

For distraction, it can be good to have music playing, or the radio on. This can also relieve tension in the room.

The person will also find obvious staring difficult to cope with, as this is usually a very distressing time for them.

Commenting on their meals/foods (especially portion sizes) can make the person feel very self-conscious, which will often make it harder for them to eat in front of others.

Challenging food behaviours -sometimes the person may try to hide food, by smearing it over the plate, or hiding it in a tissue for

example. . Most people with eating disorders agree that confronting this helps in the long run, but can feel very humiliating at the time. Perhaps a conversation can be held about this after the meal in

Private as it is important that challenges are done sensitively and carefully, so that it doesn’t make the person feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed. The eating disorder feeds on these feelings.

Maybe talk to the person with an eating disorder about how it is best for them to be supported and helped.

It can help if you could quietly and sensitively say something like

"I can see you’re really struggling, is there anything I can do to help you?"
"Would it help to talk about what’s troubling you".
"I wonder what you need right now?"

It is also really important to blame the illness, not the person. The eating disorder can make your relative ‘not think straight’ and behave in ways they wouldn’t normally.

With rituals, it can be helpful for some people to be reassured that they don’t have to carry these out.

After a meal

It is normal to want to praise your relative after they have struggled to get through a meal.

For some people the eating disorder turns praise around, to make them feel more shame, guilt and self-disgust. This is often because they feel that they’ve done something they really didn’t want to. For others it may feed the eating difficulty to tell them not to eat next time, some people may feel patronized by being praised for eating.

Others like their efforts to be acknowledged, and like it that others appreciate what an achievement they have made. This is a very individual thing and can be good to check out with the person as you are not a mind reader and it may be different each time , you need to be able to say how you feel too so you are not walking on egg shells all Christmas.

Cont/................
 
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S

*Sapphire*

Guest
Cont/..........

People with eating disorders and their families have reported difficulties at Christmas.

Have you found Christmas to be a particularly difficult time? in the past?
Yes / No

What particular things have you found difficult? (E.g. large family meals etc.)
Excitement can become tinged with fear about being made to eat and be with others? How can all you manage this?
What has helped you in the past with these difficulties? (E.g. support from friends; distraction)
What ideas do you have about things that could help you this Christmas?
How can your family help you this Christmas?
When being encouraged to eat, what words are particularly helpful?

My Christmas Planner
When do I break up?

When do I go back to Uni?

Am I going home? Staying at Uni? staying with friends? Going on holiday?

Do I need to work? Help on a charity shelter type project? Do Course work? Take time out? Be with my family?

Think about last Christmas how do you need this one to be?

What do I like about Christmas?

What do I not like?

Family members

Who is home for Christmas?

What do I want to do?

What are the family planning to do together?

What would I like to do? What are the pros and cons of this?

What can I not manage to do?

What will I do instead at this time?



Carers friend and Family

Take the planner and think about yourself and your needs, then talk to your daughter son or sibling about what you want and what they want and see if you can find a mutually manageable plan for all!

You can still have your Christmas.

" I feel guilt I wish they would do what they want to and not stop it all because I won’t join in. If I could I would. I feel guilty enough anyway, please carry on and let me join in where I can. I do not want to ruin your time"

If you need to speak to someone urgently you could call:

The Samaritans 08457 90 90 90
Rethink 01823 354879
Saneline 0845 7678000
NHS direct 08454647
Mind 0845 660163
Rethink 020 89746814
No Panic 0800 7831531
Carers support 0800 317220
Find an OA meeting 0700 784985


If there is a medical emergency with someone you are with call the out of hours doctor or 999 for an ambulance.
 
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