What can you do to make it easier for yourself and those around you!
If you are suffering with disordered eating there is a good chance that the idea of being sat at the table, surrounded by people you love and people you tolerate, having vast amounts of food, prepared by someone else, brought out in biblical proportions, fills you with a sense of uneasiness.
If you are preparing a feast for a "fussy eater" the chances are, you too are filled with a sense of uneasiness.
It's probably time we addressed the turkey shaped elephant in the room!
If your fear of food and eating is such that it threatens to ruin your whole day, plan ahead. Ask the chef, if you can serve your own meal. In turn, be prepared to sample a bit of everything so as to enjoy the meal and show appreciation of the efforts made by the chef. Equally if binging is the issue, think about what triggers your behaviour and stay clear of those triggers where possible. Being left alone in the kitchen is likely to be challenging, so if you are asked to clear the table, ask someone to help. If you are the chef and you are nervous about the meal, perhaps having a discussion prior to the big day, may help. As tempting as it is, Christmas is not the time to load up the plates of those with disordered eating and hope they will appreciate your hard work.
Christmas gatherings can feel claustrophobic, create space to incorporate some headspace into the festivities. I always go on a Christmas Day walk. It is open to anyone who wants to come; Usually only the dog and the kids are keen, which suits me fine! If you are the host and one of your guests takes themselves out of the hubbub of things; Remember this is not a reflection on you. Not everyone enjoys the intensity of being surrounded by friends and family, no matter how much they love them. I would say to anyone, who feels overwhelmed at festive gatherings, that head space is a necessity, not a luxury, so don't fight the urge to find peace.
People will say things....It is likely to come from a well meaning place...Ill informed possibly, but well meaning. "Give your leftovers to ....... they're like a bottomless pit." "You look well." "I've seen sparrows eat more than that." "Come on, it's Christmas." Be prepared but do not overthink it. What you don't want, is to be spoiling for a fight and ready to take offence, at any poorly considered comment. From the other perspective; If you know one of the people you are celebrating with is self conscious about their weight, or food, or if you know they have disordered eating, then, out of courtesy, stay away from talk to food, weight and dieting. Even comments like, "A moment on the lips...." can be triggering, so try and think about what you are saying and who you are saying it to.
Alcohol! Our dear festive friend and foe! This time of year does seem to be a time of excess, in all things but rarely, in my experience, does the excessive consumption of alcohol, make things better. I am not saying don't drink. I am merely saying, if there is a prospect of tensions running high, do not drink to the extent that your inhibitions and judgement reduce.
Ultimately disordered eating can be a difficult and lonely place at Christmas. The fear of weight gain, a lack of control over food portions and meal prep and a restraint on exercise can all cause the sufferer to feel out of control. This controlling approach to food and exercise can be very difficult to understand. But disordered eating doesn't take a break for Christmas and no-one, other than the sufferer, has the power change it.
However, perhaps finding the opportunity to communicate clearly, is the best gift we can give to each other. If we ask open questions, listen without judgement and do what we can to understand each other, then we can all enjoy Christmas without disordered eating stealing the show!
If you are struggling REACH OUT!
Here are some helplines:
BEAT 0808 801 0677
MIND 0300 123 3393