As people that have experienced an eating disorder would tell you, most social interaction involves food. Holiday meals or special occasions like a birthday have likely caused distress for your loved one. Going into the day it’s important to acknowledge and recognize the stress your loved one is experiencing. Below are techniques that your loved one can incorporate as well as a few you can practice to support corrective experiences around these triggering times:
For your Loved One
- Set up a buddy system: Try to find at least one person you can rely on and talk to them about a few potential triggers. This will make it easier to reach out if you want support.
- Consider any potential obstacles that might come up. Determine a few ways you could handle them so if they do happen, you can respond rather than react.
- Create a tradition! See how you can get involved in the overall meal experience.
- Suggest your favorite holiday dish and offer to help prepare it.
- Think about your day and reflect on three things you are grateful for. This is a good exercise before, during, or after your meal.
- If you have a special occasion dinner, remind yourself that your body needs nourishment throughout the day, no matter what anyone else is saying or doing. This will honor your recovery and make the meal much more approachable.
For You (The Supporter)
- Adhere to your family’s normal meal schedule before and after planned occasion.
- If you have a special occasion dinner, meals and snacks beforehand should stay as they are. This includes yours! Use it as an opportunity to challenge societal dieting norms!
- This can be a high stress situation for your loved one in recovery. Don’t be afraid to talk about meal beforehand, be proactive!
- Who will be there? Create a game plan of what support might be needed around potential triggers. Ask for practice round with family.
- Suggest preparing a meal together to share with the group or the family.
- Establish a signal or safe word your love one can use if the meal or conversation is becoming too overwhelming and they need to step away.
- Identify some of your favorite food values in the holiday experience.
- Pay attention to additional details of the meal experience- company, taste, flavor.
- Acknowledge that the occasion is not just about the food itself, but know that it’s okay to find joy in a special meal as well.