Supporting Your Loved One
Although the season is meant to be filled with joy and thankfulness, Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for those who struggle with eating disorders. Here are a few tips to help support your loved one with an eating disorder this holiday.
Understand That Their Feelings Are Real
It may sound obvious, but it’s true. Imagine having to face your biggest fear in front of your family and friends, who are probably already keeping an eye on your behavior all night. There’s a large chance that this is what your loved one is thinking as they sit down at the dinner table.
If you notice that your loved one is struggling or feeling overwhelmed, acknowledge their effort and ask if there is anything you can do for them or get for them to help them feel a bit more at ease.
Comments about how fattening foods are, counting calories, or how everyone needs will need to burn off all the extra food can be especially triggering for those dealing with an eating disorder.
When topics and comments like this come up, try to change the subject. If the conversation continues, pull your loved one into a side conversation that’s a bit more light-hearted.
Shift the Focus Away From Food
Thanksgiving is about gratefulness and giving thanks. Shift the focal point of conversation away from the grand meal and more toward topics of gratitude or other topics your loved one enjoys.
Encourage your friends and family to go around discussing things they are thankful for. You can even remark on the fact that you all gathered together is something to be grateful for to remind your loved one that they are welcome.
Don’t Overthink It
Even though you may find yourself stressing over saying the “right” thing in this delicate situation, trust your judgment. People can sense when you’re being overly delicate or hyper-focused on them being “okay.” It’s possible to unintentionally make your loved one feel more uncomfortable with that kind of added attention.
If you still find yourself not knowing what to do to help, simply ask what it is your loved one may want or need.