How To Survive Family Gatherings With an Eating Disorder – Tip 2 of 3
by Z Zoccolante
(listen to the audio of this post in the blue box below)
Last week we spoke about how gatherings can be complicated and stressful for someone with an eating disorder. When we experience stress, eating disorders love to come out and play.
We talked about recognizing triggers, being conscious around our disorders, and limiting our time with people or things that trigger us.
Did you miss it? Read it here.
This week we’ll move on to step 2 of how to survive family gatherings.
Listen to or download the podcast of this blog.
2) Answer on your terms
When you have an eating disorder, there’s often only so much you can do to hide it. Particularly if you’re very thin, people notice. It’s also hard if it’s more in the open that you struggle with one (i.e. your family, friends, or coworkers are already talking about it, or you’re in treatment or have been in treatment).
We’ve all experienced the family member, friend, or party guest who makes a “stupid” question or statement.
For me, things like these really got to me:
- Immature, joking comments like, “I wish I’d get an eating disorder for like a month!”
- Well-meaning things like, “How could you possibly think you’re fat?” or, “You’re too thin. Here—have a piece of pie.”
- Invasive personal questions like, “I know you’ve had a few issues around food; is it hard to be around all this food?”
- Or if you’re in recovery, “Oh, I’m sorry, is it okay to eat these cookies around you/talk about this recipe?”
Pretend people mean well—or at least give them the benefit of the doubt. But keep the ball in your court by answering on your terms.
For example, you could say:
- “I’d rather not spend this time chatting about [food], [my body], [fill in the blank], but I was wondering … about your vacation to Bermuda. Did you have any interesting experiences there?” “… how your knitting class was going?” “… how the heck Marbles the cat is doing?”
Turn the tables on them by asking something about their life. People love to talk about themselves!
- “Those comments don’t make me feel very good, and I want to celebrate tonight.”
Then, ask a question about them. You don’t need to shame them, just take control and steer the conversation into more peaceful waters.
- “Aunt Nancy, your pie looks amazing and I’d love to take a piece to go. I know it was made with love.”/ “Thanks, Janine, I’m sure the boss’s birthday cake is delicious. At the moment, my body is telling me I’m full, and I want to respect that signal.”/ “Thanks for the offer, Janine. I’m actually seeing a nutritionist right now, and it’s important for me to stick with my meal plan.”
Whatever you say, be honest, polite, and firm. Repeat the same sentence if necessary, and don’t be afraid to add a smile to disarm the person. Because that’s the goal: to disarm them, take away the weapon that could harm you.
- Again: You have the right to your choices. You have the right to limit your time around your triggers.
*Read the entire post on elephant journal, or stay tuned on my blog next week for tip 3 on How To Survive Family Gatherings With an Eating Disorder.
Millions of people suffer from eating disorders, and they impact millions of loved ones. Eating disorders are a secret shame, so please SHARE THIS POST or the full post on elephant journal and help promote health and healing.
All it takes is one thing to initiate a moment of hope. That moment can spur people on to recovery and allow them to travel the road home to themselves.
With Love, Z :)
Z Zoccolante is a fully recovered anorexic/bulimic passionately dedicated to assisting others in their recovery. Her work appears in The Huffington Post, Psych Central, Adios Barbie, Peaceful Dumpling, and soon, the Surviving ED blog at HealthyPlace.com. In high school she developed a dysfunctional relationship with food, which overshadowed her next decade. After traveling the winding path of recovery, she won her happily ever after, and now uses the knowledge she gained to inspire people and deter others from the pointless path of skinny. She’s thrilled to announce her upcoming memoir, The Twisting War, which reveals the details of her journey, and is meant to help those with eating disorders attain happiness and freedom while also supporting the affected loved ones. For more empowerment around body image, food, and recovery, subscribe to Z’s weekly blog & audio at zzoccolante.com. You can also get her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, 310-853-3271, or from her coaching page.