It's not an easy time of year for Eating Disorder clients .....
She grimaced at the sound of Grandad arriving armed with presents, a large wedge of Stilton and a bottle of Baileys. It was the moment she'd been dreading since waking up that morning.
It was Christmas day; a day which should be joyful and merry. Actually she felt entirely hateful and ... merry maybe, but only in that the morning had started with a large sherry. Having struggled through two hours of unwrapping presents, she felt herself even more wrapped up in layers of guilt and confusion. Lunch lay ahead with all its indulgent chaos.
While the nation relaxed, ate and shared laughter, she felt so alone. No-one understood.
He took her cheek between a thumb and a firm finger and gave it a little squeeze. "You're looking better love, nice to see you looking more healthy". Winking as he spoke, he took a mince pie from the tray on the table. It was piled high. "Would you like one? Go on it'll do you good".
She turned to Mum, looking to be rescued but Mum was busying herself awkwardly having anticipated the situation but having no idea what to do.
Christmas looked a little blurry behind her tears.
If this sounds at all familiar then you are certainly not alone. Christmas comes with many challenges for Eating Disorder clients, at whatever stage of their recovery. Giving the event some forethought and planning can help you feel stronger and more able to cope. Let's consider the scenario above which is completely fictional. It is offered as an example of how things can become difficult if inevitable situations are allowed to unfold without being thought out.
Let's start with Grandad. Well-meaning relatives are often a problem. Here, Grandad has been desperately worried about his granddaughter therefore he attempts to encourage her progress but sadly lacks the sensitivity that is required. However, let us remember that his comments come from a good place. In this example, the ED is not healed enough for her to accept them with the gesture intended. In hindsight, the character will look back and smile.
Grandad was just trying to be kind and in fact she did look better than she had when she had looked gaunt and drained. He was being honest and sincere.
These compliments on health and looking better are just this - 'compliments'.
And Mum, well although she had foreseen the remark, perhaps she wasn't aware of how the comments would be received. It's always a good idea to confide in a family member about how sensitive you are feeling and what might be triggering. Otherwise how would Mum know?
This situation could have been less impactful if Grandad had been given a heads up on sensitive topics, comments and cheek grabbing!
Christmas amongst friends and family will inevitably involve some comments about food and weight. Keep in mind that that they are not always directed at you, sometimes they are just part of Christmas banter. And if they are fixed on you then be prepared by reminding yourself that comments such as the ones above are well meaning and that you do look better!
And the sherry.... Don't be tempted to fuel up on booze. Be moderate and eat first as alcohol can often let your guard down.
Overall, try to relax and go with the flow, have some fun, and arm yourself with a Christmas mantra in case comments come your way ... "Let it go, let it go, let it go".