Supporting A Loved One With an Eating Disorder During the Holidays - Kristina Fyrwald, ACSW
With gatherings toting a higher-than-normal emphasis on food, greater socialization
expectations and disruptions in daily routines, the holidays can be a challenging time for those
with an eating disorder. It can be hard to see someone you love struggle and feel like you have
no idea how to help. While you can’t change or control their behavior, there are absolutely
things you can incorporate (and unincorporate) to be a supportive ally to someone in recovery!
*Refrain from body talk and excessive food talk: this includes comments about your loved one’s
body and your own! Unhelpful comments include, “I have to hit the gym tomorrow after that
second slice of pie!” or “diet starts after the new year!”. Helpful comments could sound like,
“wow, this meal was delicious! I’m so grateful we get to enjoy it together” or “it’s such a joy
getting to spend time with you”. The great thing is, there are so many more
interesting/funny/creative topics to discuss that have nothing to do with body size!
*Get informed in any way you can. Doing your own research, talking to a therapist and/or
someone on your loved one’s support team (therapist, dietician). This can help you make sense
of eating disorder behaviors you don’t understand and can offer additional ways to support.
You can also ask your loved one how they’d like to receive support or what they’d like you to
know about recovery!
*Communicate with them the plan for the day, i.e. meal times and who will be attending any
gatherings. Creating context helps in lowering anxiety when they feel out of control.
*Plan activities that don’t revolve around cooking/eating: ideas include playing engaging
games, looking at holiday lights, turning on the fire and a good movie.
*Remind them you love and care about them. You can sit next to them, offer a hug, or provide
more subtle acts of inclusion like initiating a conversation or an activity you know they’ll enjoy.
*Take care of YOU! That means a big dose of empathy and self-compassion that this is hard for
YOU TOO and navigating this relationship can be frustrating and confusing. One of the best gifts
you can give your eating disordered loved one is a calm nervous system to mirror. Take a walk,
bath, a time out to read, deep breathe, whatever it is you do to keep your own anxieties at bay.
Kristina is currently accepting clients. To learn more about her schedule and availability, call/ text/ or email her at 424-330-8121/ firstname.lastname@example.org.