Coping with eating disorders over Christmas

Christmas can be a really challenging time if you have an eating disorder.

Likewise if you know someone, are the parent or carer, or are visiting someone going through this, then the festive season can be difficult for you too.

We’ve spoken to people with eating disorders, their families and experts about the challenges that can come with the Christmas period.

Here’s what they told us, in their own words, about how they found ways to make Christmas easier to cope with. In some cases the people behind the quotes have chosen not to give their names.

There are some practical tips for managing the set-pieces of Christmas, and reading the first-hand experiences of people dealing with these disorders, as well as their families, will show that this is a common challenge for many families.

Look to your family for support – be vocal if you are anxious about anything to do with Christmas” – Lilly, 17.

It’s just another Monday, stick to your agreed plan” – Danny, the dad of a young person with an eating disorder.

I lacked confidence in my coping mechanisms standing up to the challenge of the festive season so it was a struggle. The following year’s festivities were intimidating but they did feel like the start of a new way of experiencing Christmas and I felt more mindful and less fraught. Last year was far from perfect but I was able to meaningfully enjoy getting together with family and friends, and to have fun with them and be in the moment” – Meg, 33.

Don’t feel like you need to fit in with the Christmas tradition: if you don’t want pudding then don’t feel pressure to have it just because everyone else is” – Steve, a father.

I find Christmas extremely difficult as I was diagnosed with Anorexia in December (which is also when my birthday is). All the foods, traditions and pretty much everything to do with the season puts me on edge. I feel totally isolated as every social occasion is about food and it has always been a huge trigger for me. Most years I have just struggled through, feeling like an outsider even at family events, but last year, my husband and I decided to start our own traditions and we just stay home with my children and I eat whatever makes me feel comfortable” – Christina, 32.

No pressure, as long as the kids stick to plan, its ok, do not pressure them. Focus on the long-term goals – Christmas will come again next year.”- Paula, a mother.

Christmas is just another day in terms of ED. It doesn’t respect your efforts in preparing and slaving over a hot stove all morning. However, your child deep down is still appreciating your efforts – even if ED does not allow them to express it. Today focus on family, love and warmth; your battle with ED can wait till tomorrow” – Nick, a father.

Plan meal times carefully so that there are realistic expectations as well as opportunities for managing things well. Also, minimise social expectations and offer time out to your family if you need it.” – Dasha, a child psychiatrist.

This information will be up until January 6th to help people with the particular difficulties of the Christmas period, but there is information and help available year round at the sites below:

Don’t forget, if you need help at any time you can contact your local GP or NHS Trust.