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Holiday dilemma: do you explain your anorexia to family and friends?

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It's a common scenario during the holiday season: You're attending one social function after the next, all while trying to figure out how to dodge questions about your weight.

Anorexics face a unique battle in that their eating disorder is on display for everyone to see – for most individuals with the disorder, it's hard to hide the evidence.

But should you explain your anorexia to family and friends? Is it better to broach the subject yourself than wait for nosy questions? Or is it anyone's business to begin with?

Answering Tough Questions

Here are some tips for approaching the issue during the holidays:

  1. Check in with yourself. Stop and ask yourself how comfortable you are talking about your condition. If you realize that you're in a positive, empowered place and you want to speak freely about what you've been through, that's fantastic. If not, that's OK too. Before spending time with loved ones in social settings, make sure you know exactly what your comfort level is in discussing your anorexia.
  2. Be prepared. If you're not ready to explain things to people, have a short speech prepared in your head. Even something as simple as, "Thanks for your concern. I'm not comfortable talking about this subject right now, but I'd love to catch up on other things with you" can do the trick. Gently but firmly let others know where your boundaries are. It's completely your right to either discuss or not discuss your condition.
  3. Expect challenges. Even the people who love you the most may not know how to fully support you in the way you would like. If you decide to open up about your anorexia and don't get the response you had hoped for, don't let it ruin your mood. Understand that others will naturally have a limited understanding, and that by simply being honest and open you have effectively broadened their knowledge of an important subject. Find comfort through people you know will be helpful, like your support group members, your therapist or your best friend.
  4. Claim your right to happiness. For people with eating disorders, the holidays can be a trying time. But remember that you deserve to enjoy yourself just as much as everyone else. Choose to engage in the traditions, events or social functions that make you feel good – and simply avoid situations that might trigger negative feelings or cause a relapse in thinking or behavior.

Source: NAED