How to spot and manage a potential eating disorder over the holidays
Little known signs to watch for
The holidays are upon us. Our to-do lists are full of grocery shopping, gift wrapping and decorating. Yet there’s one more thing that I urge you to add: Keeping an eye out for symptoms of eating disorders.
That’s because the holidays can be especially challenging for someone struggling with an eating disorder. And it’s a time when we tend to visit family we don’t see often and when many students return home from college for the first time.
If you are concerned that a loved one might have an eating disorder, here’s what to watch for:
- Removing entire food groups from their diet
- Skipping meals and saying they’re not hungry
- Filling up on low-carb foods or using gum and water to feel full
- Isolating themselves from friends and family
- Making excuses to not eat socially
- Overeating, under eating or eating fast
- Eating in isolation
- Always talking about food, calories and weight while restricting what they eat
- Exercising excessively to make up for eating
- Habitually going to the bathroom or showering after meals, which can be a sign of purging
How to navigate the holidays with an eating disorder
If you are struggling, keep in mind that:
- The holidays don’t have to mean choosing between food deprivation or weight gain. It’s possible to find the middle ground. You can enjoy your favorite holiday foods as part of a complete celebration.
- Overeating once in a while (for example, around the holidays) is perfectly normal.
- It can be helpful to practice mindful eating. Be intentional with food. Eat when you’re moderately hungry. Choose the foods you want to eat. Slow down and savor your food. And stop when you’re satisfied.
- Sticking to your regular eating schedule is key. Don’t skip meals.
- Your worth has nothing to do with what you eat.
Melrose Center is here to help
If you think a loved one has an eating disorder, or if you’re struggling with one, Melrose Center can help. Our expert care teams give emotional and physical support to help patients regain a healthy approach to eating, exercise and body image.
About Heather Gallivan, PsyD
Dr. Heather Gallivan is Clinical Director of Melrose Center. For more than a decade she has specialized in helping patients who have weight and eating problems. She is passionate about preventing eating disorders through education. And she says it’s key to inform people about how mass media and social messages affect our attitudes about body image and weight. Before joining Melrose Center, Dr. Gallivan served 5 years in the United States Navy as an active duty psychologist. Outside of work she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, traveling, cooking and photography.