Surviving Christmas with an eating disorder
Around 6 million people in the UK will be fighting through Christmas this year with an eating disorder, and a large number of them are the same age as you.
Christmas can be really hard for people suffering with eating disorders, with the heavy focus on food and disruption of everyday routine being potentially very stressful.
Anorexia is a condition that usually develops around the age of 16 or 17, and 1 in 100 women (between 15-30) are affected. Bulimia is around two to three times more common than anorexia, and 90% of people with this condition are female. Bulimia is more likely to develop a little later, at around 18 or 19.
Thoughts of Christmas Day can even make those suffering stop eating in the run up. There are a number of food fears that can distress young people with eating disorders, these may be:
- Stress at large family meals
- Loss of control and binge eating due to the volume of food available
- Unusual eating patterns and feeling forced to eat more food than feels comfortable
- Different foods and feeling pressured to ‘treat yourself’ to unhealthy foods
- Diets and talks of other people on diets, or other people feeling fat
- Family scrutiny and comments from family about your diet/appearance
And so, with these potential stresses in mind, in this season it is more important than ever to keep a watchful eye over your friends and family and offer as much support as possible.
We spoke to co-ordinator and counselor Annemarie, an expert from from Yes We Can Youth Clinic in the Netherlands, she said: “Having an eating disorder could be extra difficult at Christmas time, or any festive period really.
“Eating disorders are comparable with all forms of addiction; those who deal with an eating disorder eat to avoid feeling a certain way and are often very insecure. It’s a disease that’s present all year round, however the difficulty during Christmas time is likely down to many people feeling obliged to spend time with family around the dinner table.”
The important thing to remember if you are suffering from an eating disorder, despite the many times people may have told you this, is that you are not alone. If you know someone who you think may be struggling or suffering, it’s important to listen to them, care for them, and support them.