How to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder This Thanksgiving


While Thanksgiving is a joyous day for many, it’s a source of endless anxiety for others—not least those who struggle with eating disorders. If you have a loved one in eating disorder recovery, you should know that making it through Thanksgiving can be a nightmare—that the whole day can be a source of stress, fear, and guilt.

You should also know that there is plenty you can do to offer encouragement and support.

Start by making an effort to help your loved one focus on the things that matter. The day doesn’t have to be all about food. Make sure to steer the conversation toward gratitude, toward the simple pleasures of being together.

Whatever you do, don’t get hung up on talk about calories, diet trends, or weight. Any mention of these topics can cause anxiety and shame for those in eating disorder recovery. Also avoid being judgy or pushy about food; you don’t want to say anything to make people feel bad for taking seconds, but you also don’t want to force people to take seconds.

Note that for those in eating disorder recovery, routines and regular meals are essential—so while it’s your business if you want to skip breakfast on Thanksgiving Day, those in recovery really shouldn’t.

Also remember that some of your family traditions, while fun for you, may cause pain for those in eating disorder recovery. If your loved one chooses to duck out before dessert is served, for instance, it’s good to be flexible and accommodating.

More than anything, what your loved one needs is to feel encouraged and loved. If he or she brings up the eating disorder, be ready to listen intently and to show support. Nobody needs you to say anything profound; just be there to lend an ear and a shoulder.

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