How to Support Your Eating Disorder Recovery at Family Gatherings
Tammy Beasley, RDN, CEDRD, CSSD, LD
Vice President, Clinical Nutrition Services
For many people in eating disorder recovery, family gatherings can be particularly difficult situations. Whether it’s a holiday, birthday, graduation, reunion, or just a simple Sunday dinner, family gatherings big or small tend to bring up recovery challenges. To help you be prepared, we’ve put together a short list of ways to make it through a tough family gathering.
You know your family better than anyone else, and you can probably anticipate the situations that will be the hardest for you. It could be comments on weight, diet talk, others expecting you to eat a certain amount, or the suffocating feeling that everyone is watching you. Whatever the likely situation is for you and your family, plan ahead of time how you will respond in a way that supports your recovery.
At your family gathering, practice mindfulness to help you stay calm and grounded in a difficult situation. Which mindfulness technique works best for you? You can try breathing exercises, focusing on one of your senses, or nonjudgmentally noticing what you’re feeling in that moment.
Remember that the eating disorder is used to following certain patterns, and you likely leaned on the eating disorder to get you through past family gatherings. Acknowledge that this is a hard thing you are doing and practice self-compassion.
You have done many hard things in your eating disorder recovery, and you can do this one, too.
Seek Support from a Trusted Loved One
Ask a trusted family member, friend, or other loved one to support you at the gathering. Maybe you need a friendly face to sit next to at dinner or a wingman to keep you company during conversations with your cousins. Having a little help can make all the difference.
Be Proud of What You’ve Accomplished
It’s common to feel unsure of how others will perceive your recovery. Be proud! You faced one of the most difficult challenges of your life head on. Let others see how strong you are.
Look for Joy
Go into your family gathering with realistic expectations, but try to also look for joy. There can be something fulfilling about spending time with relatives, no matter how often you see them, and no matter how dysfunctional the system can be. Look for the good. Look for acts of kindness, listen to the hilarious comments that children make, and revel in the time you have left with your older relatives.
Commit to Recovery
Family gatherings can be times for big emotions of all kinds. Before you go, commit to your recovery. Commit to getting the nourishment your body needs. Commit to skills that will keep your emotions in check. Commit to keeping your recovery the top priority. Whatever that looks like for you on your recovery path, do what you need to do for you.
We hope you find family gatherings to be a time of great joy and companionship. When they get tough, we hope these tips will help you in your commitment to prioritize recovery from the eating disorder. If you need additional support in your recovery, join us in our free online support groups or call us at (855) 915-0213. We would love to hear from you!