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Navigating the Holidays: 5 Tips for Supporting a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

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When a friend or family member has an eating disorder, getting through the holidays can be challenging.

And while you may feel the need to be hypervigilant about this person's habits during a time when food is the focus, experts recommend backing off and learning ways to respect his or her recovery. Here are some tips from Eating Recovery Center:

Communicate your support

According to Elizabeth Easton, PsyD, clinical director of child and adolescent services at Eating Recovery Center’s Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents, simply asking your loved one how you can help is a great step. Show that you're sensitive to his or her needs, and open up a conversation about how you can assist in making things easier for him or her during parties or family gatherings.

Don't overstep boundaries

If your loved one is in recovery, make sure you're not acting like the "food police." It's likely your loved one knows what he or she needs to do, and getting pressure from others may only be detrimental, causing anxiety and possibly even triggering an episode.

Scale down plans

While it's easy to get booked with lots of holiday engagements this time of year, Bonnie Brennan, MA, LPC, clinical director of Eating Recovery Center’s Partial Hospitalization Program, recommends that you keep plans simple and minimal. Try to stay close to home, avoid unnecessary travel and keep social events smaller than usual. This can help ease the stress on someone in recovery.

Expect challenges

The holidays can be a time when people put pressure on themselves and their families to fit a certain ideal, says Brennan. But expect that, if someone is in recovery, there may be some hiccups. Plans might need to change or obstacles may need to be dealt with. Accept that things won't be perfect.

Watch how you talk about food

Offhand remarks about food--how many calories you ate, how you need to hit the gym to burn off last night's meal--can create a negative environment for someone in recovery from an eating disorder. Pay close attention to what you say about food; be sensitive to how it might be perceived by your loved one.

Source: Psych Central