The holidays are a great time for faith, family, fun, and great food… for most. For those that suffer from eating disorders the holidays can be a time of stress, or even worse, terror. According to Cynthia Bulik, director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program, “For some people, the holiday season is filled with joyous occasions and wonderful food but for other people, it can actually be quite a nightmare … especially if you have eating disorders.” Kris Shock, 36, of Kennesaw Georgia, recalls that before her recovery from bulimia the holidays were “emotionally and physically exhausting… come the New Year I would have no memories to show for it other than sheer anxiety.” Shock went on to say that a support system during the holidays is extremely important. For Shock, the realization that relapses are a real potential keeps her therapist and nutritionist on speed dial. The following is an excerpt of an article from CNN.com that discusses the subject more:
“It can be incredibly overwhelming to be surrounded by so many different types of food,” Bulik noted. “We often suggest that people with anorexia go to a party with a wingman. … Take someone with you who is safe, to whom you can say, ‘This is really tough for me. I need to take a break.’ “
She shared similar advice for those who suffer from bulimia, a condition in which people binge and purge.
“We tell people to never go to a party hungry. … That’s the worst thing to do. It’s really best to have a decent meal before you get there so you’re not tempted to binge when you’re at the party,” Bulik recommended.
One of Shock’s biggest challenges while recovering from bulimia was coping with probing family members.
“It was very anxiety-filled,” Shock recalled, “I had to eat dinner with all these people where, many times, there were unspoken things I wanted to say.”
Last Christmas, Shock tried a new strategy: eating dinner with her husband and children first and then attending a party. Shock called it a safer situation.
“I can take care of my physical body and then handle the process, the emotional anxiety that comes with typical social situations,” she said.
Bulik advises well-meaning family members to try to help people with eating disorders feel as comfortable as possible.
“There is no play book,” she said. “The best thing to do is not to push. … Don’t focus on their appearance, don’t focus on what they’re eating.”