The holidays are upon us, and along with them comes lots of food. Starting with Thanksgiving feasts, we tend to eat our way through December and don’t stop until it’s time for our New Year’s Resolutions. For a person with an eating disorder, this time of year can be a nightmare.
Temptations and Insecurities
Someone with an eating disorder is naturally leery about food around the holidays. Every Christmas party is going to have food and attending a party means being surrounded by people who are eating, drinking, and having fun. Not wanting to eat because they don’t want to get fat, someone with an eating disorder must detach from the situation and be somewhat excluded.
We all want to look good for the holidays, but some people take it to extremes. Someone overly obsessed with food will always be aware that they will be seeing people at the holidays that they don’t see very often, and will feel pressured to be as thin and good looking as possible. For this reason, the holidays are usually very stressful, and can even set someone back who is trying to recover from an eating disorder.
Dealing with an Obsession
An eating disorder is really more than not wanting to eat or wanting to look good. Food becomes an obsession, and it can hold a person hostage because they can’t stop thinking about it. At the holidays, things can get much worse. Dr. Carol Francis, a Clinical Psychologist, explains, “Eating may have a lot to do with hunger and nutritional needs under normal circumstances. During holidays however, food represents warmth, sweet indulgences, opportunity, and entertaining flavors. Our subconscious is trained to believe that we will be missing-out if we miss the opportunity to eat those treats.” (1)
Dr. Francis goes on to suggest that someone who struggles with an eating disorder can find techniques around the holidays that will help them through. “Foods [served at parties] will be available at any time of the year and we could easily enjoy them in moderation later or take a pleasant nibble at the parties. So enjoy the people and your emotional connections with the activities and eat the foods without feeling you have to have them. More often than not, the fun is in the conversations, dances, music, good cheer at the gala.”
Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia affect nearly 24 million people in our country, but only 1 in 10 will receive treatment for their disease. Eating disorders are serious, and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. (2) Someone with an eating disorder should get help as soon as possible, because these disorders can quickly progress and take over a person’s life.