When an eating disorder is one of your guests at the table, a festival that’s focused on food can be tricky for everyone. But there are ways to cope.Ellern Mede Family Therapy team are always on hand for advice.  Here’s a few tips they would like to share this Christmas.

Here are eight tips from our team about how to survive this special time together:

  1. Assign table support to the young person to one main person at the table.
  2. Explain how you usually handle meal times with guests
  3. Talk to the young person in advance about how to alert you if he/she is feeling awkward and how you will deal with it.
  4. Agree a few options for dealing with a bad moment, such as an alternative thing to do rather than just stay at the table during main meals
  5. It’s preferable to serve portions ready plated, particularly for the young person, keeping the portion size similar to the usual.
  6. Emphasise unconditional love, reassurance and acceptance of the young person regardless of the illness.
  7. Gifts are an expression of love, not a reward or an expression of some sort of expectation.
  8. Plan some self-care and down time for the main host and carer.

Broaden the appeal?

Broaden what you do at Christmas and avoid making food too much of a focus.

Changes to routine?

Surprises are often thought to be good. But where does that leave a person for whom a structured timetable is their comfort zone? For many young people with an eating disorder, knowing in advance what is going to happen each day, and what is going to be offered at the dining table in advance, is important.

What’s so different about Christmas time?

  • travelling between different houses
  • having food made by unfamiliar people
  • being visited by groups of friends and family,
  • an emphasis on long mealtimes
  • the expectation that relaxation and socialising is in a larger group

Perfection can be the enemy of the good

High expectations and hopes for the day can be overwhelming, not just for the guests but the host too. Do what feels good, but avoid aiming for ‘perfect’. Remember everyone has their own definition of what that is. Accept that if food and mealtimes are stressful for anyone in the family, every member of  the family needs to have understanding of this to manage the impact it has on themselves. Don’t set the game plan too high.