How to support loved ones with eating disorders this Thanksgiving

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 5:52 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WIFR) - Just two days away, most Americans already feel the stressors that surround Thanksgiving.

But what about those who struggle with eating disorders?

Dr. Paula Cody, medical director of adolescent medicine at UW Health says that any holiday that centers around food can be very difficult—especially for patients who struggle with ED.

“For some, it’s the anxiety around the food itself. For others, it may be comments from friends or family,” Cody says. “It is crucial for someone with an eating disorder to navigate the holidays with support.”

According to Dr. Cody, f you have a loved one who has an eating disorder and will be coming to Thanksgiving dinner, there are a couple of things that you can do:

  • Avoid making comments on looks, weight, or body shape/size, including your own - even if your intentions are good.
  • Avoid diet talk
  • Focus on the deeper intention of Thanksgiving, rather than making food the entire focus of the day.

She also has some tips for those struggling with ED.

  • Identify boundaries before arrival to dinner; i.e. sitting where you feel the most comfortable at dinner.
  • Practice self-affirming statements to help boost confidence when a trigger arises; i.e. “I am not talking about diets right now,” or “Please do not comment on my body and eating.”
  • Find a support person who will be with you at the meal to help distract you if a trigger occurs.
  • Treat Thanksgiving like any other meal. Do not skip or compensate meals based on Thanksgiving. Stick to a meal plan and activity plan.

Most importantly, Cody says, preparation is the key to support.