Advice and support for people with eating disorders this Christmas
Solent NHS Trust is helping friends and family of people with eating disorders to support their loved ones during the Christmas period, which often presents huge challenges.
At a time when gatherings, television and shops are heavily focused on eating and consumption, those who face physical and mental health issues related to food and hydration can feel completely overwhelmed, often desperately want to disengage from celebrations.
Alex Millham, Eating Disorder Team Lead for Solent’s Portsmouth Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), thinks the most important thing to do is plan ahead with any conversation. Alex said: “Your loved one is unlikely to enjoy Christmas if the main focus is on food. Although your Christmas may look different, by changing the focus you’ll reduce anxiety. You may decide to have a more low-key Christmas, seeing fewer people, and this can help too. New activities, like a long family walk, or a movie afternoon, may become the new tradition.”
Among other top tips from the service, is to change the conversation. Alex states that using phrases, such as “I must diet next year” and “I shouldn’t have eaten all that” can easily put the pressure on. Having a conversation strategy is important. Try having a code word, so your loved one can tell you when they need support. Think up some useful phrases, such as “Could we change the subject”.
Alex also highlights the importance of being kind to yourself, He added: “It is a stressful time for carers of people with an eating disorder and they must look after themselves too. Reaching out for help if your family member is struggling is absolutely the right thing to do.”
Along with Solent’s CAMHS Team, there is additional support available. If you or a family member are struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out for support from the people around you. BEAT, the eating disorder charity, mans helplines 365 days a year, from 9am until 8pm during the week, and 4pm until 8pm on weekends and bank holidays. Their number is 0808 801 0677.