ADVICE

9 ways to support someone with an eating disorder at Christmas

Two women hugging supportively by the Christmas tree

Having an eating disorder or working on ED recovery can be especially hard at this time of year. With so much focus on food, fashion and celebratory drinks, it can be hard to push through various triggers. Dietitian Jennifer Low offers nine helpful tips for family and friends on how to support loved ones who may be struggling throughout the Christmas period.

To help support people with an eating disorder, and keep Christmas relaxed and as much fun as possible, here’s some practical advice for family and friends:

  1. Keep things simple – not too much rushing around, not too many people
  2. Warn other guests not to comment on food intake, diets, body weight or shape
  3. Have a plan of what to say should another guest make a comment that could upset the person with the eating disorder – divert, distract and move on as quickly as possible
  4. Remember, even innocuous comments such as ‘you look well’ can be a trigger for that person
  5. Plan food and timings well in advance and consider how any meal plan the person is following can fit in with that
  6. Keep in mind that on Christmas Day there is no judgment or watching of food intake – do not expect too much
  7. Let the person who has the eating disorder choose what to eat (with your help if they want it)
  8. Don’t make it all about the food. Plan fun activities, such as games and walks (if appropriate)
  9. Make sure the person with an eating disorder can take a break if they need to, without judgment or comment

Eating disorder support

NZ: edanz
Australia: Eating Disorder Hope
UK: Beat Eating Disorders
US: ANAD

For more on eating disorders you might be interested in: Gaps in eating disorder understanding, Too healthy for your own good, The long run: A path to understanding bulimia nervosa or How to help when eating is scary

First published: Dec 2019
Last updated: July 9, 2020

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