One young woman gives us something we rarely see: a practical primer on "How to Handle My Eating Disorder in Your Home for the Holidays":
22-year-old Meike Schleiff, a contributor to RED the Book who works for the non-profit High Rocks, knows, like anyone recovering from an eating disorder, that the holidays are a rough time, a time not only of enforced feasting and conspicuous consumption, but family and social pressures. While women like Schleiff have surely developed coping strategies, on the Huffington Post, she suggests ways the rest of us can actually help - easier said than done when you see a loved one literally wasting away before your eyes and every instinct can cry out for dramatic intervention. And she knows, because one holiday at home with a supportive family helped her break her harmful patterns.
If we're eating — eating anything — let us eat. Let us make our own decisions. Try to put your own weight and diet concerns aside. If we decide we don't want any dessert, let it go. If we decide to sample only the veggie tray, look the other way and enjoy your next course to show that it is OK, that no one's keeping score the way our own inner invader is.
A good way to do so is to make sure you're offering, right there with the holiday regulars, something you know your loved one will eat. Chocolate or pretzels or hummus or sunflower seeds—again, who cares? The only things I felt good about eating for a while were carrots, apples, and a little bit of peanut butter, so they were always well stocked. My brothers and I would all cut up apples and pass around a knife to spread peanut butter on the slices. That snack is a favorite in our house to this day...Back then, it took some of the pressure off me for passing on the ham and gravy. I could stay in a comfort zone during a meal without calling too much attention to the matter. Stand by us, please, if we are being pressured by anyone to eat anything we don't want to. Intervene for us sometimes. Take the heat from Grandma.
Much of the author's advice comes down to simple consideration - as opposed to unhealthy levels of scrutiny. She says,
Go for walks with us, listen to our music, let us pick the movie, try some of the things we like. Ask us to cook something for the whole family, or ask who we'd like to help who might be hurting this holiday season: Animals? Sick people, old and alone people? Hungry people? Come to the shelter or soup kitchen with us.
Of course, everyone is different; triggers will vary, severity will vary, people will vary. But there's a kernel of absolutely practical truth here: this is a reality that increasing numbers of families will deal with, and it's something we need to be aware of - but, first, that there's a person behind the disorder, and one who needs love and support before anything. I like, too, the matter-of-factness of the piece, and the fact that it's running: that's what we need, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. And as Schleiff says, it's all about acknowledgment - as distinct from panic.
How to Handle My Eating Disorder in Your Home for the Holidays [Huffington Post]