the holidays can be tough when your child suffers from an eating disorder. let us try to help!
Why can holidays be a challenging time for people with eating disorders?
They are painfully difficult for people with eating disorders for several reasons. This is a time of year of higher stress anyway, as the holidays are about family, emotion and high levels of connection. This means food is everywhere and is at the center of connection. People are worried about their family members commenting on their weight or assessing their food intake. They are greatly worried about eating foods they did not prepare and therefore lacking the control of what is in them. There is a lot of diet talk around the table, but also in the media. These and other issues create anticipatory stress for the person with the eating disorder. Some common concerns are fearing weight gain and a sense of lacking control around the food. People with eating disorders might also be scared that others will find out about their eating disorders during the holidays since eating is more central to the holiday experience.
What are some tips for helping your child cope with an eating disorder during the holidays?
Help your child navigate the family process.. Tell your family members to limit any food or diet talk. Tell your family to not discuss or many comments about your child's body for good or bad - perceived compliments are often not helpful either, as the eating disorder will twist the connotation and hear most things as "I'm fat," or "I've gained a lot of weight," or whatever it is.
How can parents set boundaries with other family members who might be present?
Remember you own your home - you can set boundaries.I know many families who simply say their home is a diet-free zone so no diet talk is allowed.
What are some resources you can suggest for parents who are coping with this alongside their child?
Get ahead of the game - be proactive not reactive. Discuss a plan with your child and your family. Have a coping plan for your child if they become overwhelmed. Consider how to incorporate their mealplan into the day. Perhaps you make their plate instead of them feeling overwhelmed. Work as a team so your child knows you are there to support. You can also limit the amount of places you go to where eating is involved, this is especially helpful if your child is at the beginning stages of recovery and is very overwhelmed. Finally - these are deadly disorders. Take them seriously and do not believe your child will 'grow out of this' - eating disorders a not a phase. This is the time to get help so involve a professional team immediately, as that is associated with long-term better outcomes.
Short answer - NO! For the longer answer, keep reading...
No shock here from those that know me -come from a Health at Every Size (HAES) approach to understanding and treating eating disorders; this is an evidence-based approach that is absolutely key when working with binge eating disorder, as these folks frequently (though not always) live in larger bodies. The medical community that is uninformed of the dangers of eating disorders and the underlying issues of what drives them, will frequently take a caloric-restrictive approach and attempt to just to produce weight loss without tackling the underlying issues of toxic shame and often abuse history in this population (1/2 of women will acknowledge an sexual abuse history as opposed to 1/4 women without binge eating). Taking an approach to reduce weight as the cure or use bariatric surgery in individuals living in larger bodies supports weight stigma and the idea that a larger body presumes a lack of health and should be changed.
Instead, us CEDS-S folks will take a non-weight approach. We will focus on healing the trauma of the individual and normalizing eating patterns through the work with a CEDS dietitian. Once the eating patterns are normalized one of three things can happen to the weight - it can go up, down or stay the same. Point being that this is a side effect NOT the focus of actual evidence-based treatment. Focusing simply on weight management is a culture mentality that has largely gotten the person to be where they are in their eating disorder. If a weight management focus is taken without healing the underlying wounds, the person will frequently shift their symptoms which can look like turning to substances, acting out sexually or other such things. That is called symptom swapping and is widely seen in the treatment setting as a result of someone getting surgery to "fix" the binging without understanding that binging is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition, a larger body is not a symptom of lacking heath - that's a myth. People come in all shapes and sizes - that's a fact.
Ultimately, people with binge eating disorder/symptoms are people first and they are suffering and misunderstood by the medical community. When they go to receive help, they are frequently shamed for weight issues and the 'solution' is weight loss products or diets. Dieting is not the answer and people with binge eating have often tried this dozens of times before they ever talked about it with their provider.
Also - never assume you know what behaviors a person does based on weight. I have know people with dangerous restrictive eating disorders who live in larger bodies and those with serious binge eating issues that live in smaller bodies. You don't know a person based on their appearance. Assuming that is weight bias and dangerous!
Contact KML for treatment that understands weight bias issues and focuses on you, the person and your behaviors - not your weight.
We all know the holidays are tough. Yes they can be fun and filled with magic and the sense of new and fresh starts. However, they are also filled with high intensity emotions and stress. What gifts are the best? Am I going to be able to afford all the expenses of this time of year? etc... Research has actually shown that the holidays are indeed times of higher stress for over 1/3 of us WITHOUT eating disorders. Now, add on an eating disorder and the challenges are compounded. There's excessive amounts of food and lots of pressure to act and look perfect. This can lead to very high intensity emotions for people with eating disorders. Self-care is absolutely KEY in creating a healthy balance during this time. Here are my top tips for managing eating disorders in the holiday season! And click here to see Spectrum News 13 interview clip I did recently on EDs and the holidays!
OPEN DISCUSSION REGARDING TODAY'S HOT TOPICS!
Dr. Kelsey explores the actual science behind today's "hot topics". She also explores deep dive behind some of her featured media topics. Come aboard to see the simple solutions to complex problems!