We recently hosted a free webinar about keeping your recovery on track over the festive period.
Below is a recap of what we discussed, and you’ll find a recording of the webinar at the bottom of the page.
Our specialist panel, Kerrie, CEO & Founder, Max, Service Director, and Paula, Senior Dietitian, came together to discuss the the challenges many face at Christmas when in eating disorder recovery, highlighting how important it is to feel safe, to communicate with your support network, and to stay on track with your recovery structure and food plan. They also discussed the changing state of Covid and how this uncertainty could affect eating disorder recovery and wellbeing over the festive period.
55% of our webinar attendees anonymously shared that they currently have an eating disorder. 8% shared that they are in recovery, 15% were parents of loved ones of someone with an eating disorder. 20% were healthcare professionals, and 3% didn’t fit into the categories above.
“Communication at Christmas is key. Plan ahead and ensure you stick to your meal plan. At Orri, we stick to 3 meals & 3 snacks per day as a guide. At Christmas, the usual structure may be tested – but trust that you can be flexible & adapt.”
Paula, Senior Dietitian, discussed how a change in routine and food pose as two of the biggest challenges.
An unstructured Christmas can disrupt the flow of recovery, especially where a food plan is concerned. For instance, breakfast with the family may come at 10am as opposed to your earlier time, and Christmas lunch may start at 3pm. All of these changes can raise anxieties around what to eat and when.
The importance here is to adapt, to be flexible and to trust that you are capable of keeping your recovery going. Many people may go into the holidays preempting that meals and food will not be manageable, but they can be. Remember, you have the tools already to keep yourself on track.
What may help with any moments of discomfort could be to confide in a loved one that you are struggling, and to take yourself to a safe space and carry out an activity that meet your needs (such as journalling). But it’s important to recognise the balance between taking yourself away and stepping into a positive challenging experience. Ask yourself, ‘are these my needs or the needs of my eating disorder?’ Make sure to communicate this.
“Often we can be tempted to compromise knowing that Christmas has a ‘big meal’. But it’s really important that you start your day with breakfast. Stick with the plan and the structure. Keep up communication.“
Kerrie, CEO and founder, explored the predominance of food during Christmas and noted how it may be tempting to compromise in the face of a ‘big meal’. However, Christmas lunch or dinner is just like any other meal.
Max, Service Director, shared that we recently held a practice Christmas Day here at Orri to help our clients prepare for the festive period. Whilst food anxieties may arise when we’re at the table, it’s important to normalise the experience and to respond to any escalated emotions with compassion, positivity and kindness.
Kerrie then explored how communication is key to sustaining recovery over Christmas time.
Together, the panel discussed how important it is to communicate to loved ones “what you do need and what you don’t need” for your recovery over this season. If you feel apprehensive about stating your needs, here is some advice…
- Note key thoughts down, in your journal or on paper. This may help your thoughts on track when engaging in conversation, avoiding any feelings of overwhelm
- Pay attention to the timing of when you decide to state your needs – this could be a quiet moment before guests arrive, or it could be before food goes in the oven
- Think how you would like to communicate as an adult. Check your approach and your delivery so people are more likely to try to understand; it may help to keep in mind how you would like to be treated yourself. For more on emotions and anger, read our blogs
- Try not to have assumptions or solutions to what people should know about your thoughts. They are likely not to know unless you communicate, so tread gently
“Eating disorders can be very difficult to understand. For parents and carers, it’s important to recognise that somebody who is in recovery needs boundaries and help with structure.”
The more honest you can be in the discussion, the better. Perhaps, you could say, “These are the things that I think could be helpful this Christmas”, “I remember last year for Christmas, we did.. how about we do it like this this time”… or “We haven’t talked about this, so let’s sit down and have a chat” – all these could be really helpful openings to an engaging and positive communication.
For those supporting someone with an eating disorder, think about how you can lead an open discussion and negotiation of support for their recovery. Understand that for them, it may be a very anxious topic for them to bring up, so go gently and know that you can return to the topic multiple times if needed.