— My Mom and I wrote this together! 🙂 Our collective experiences have written and refined this post and although she hasn’t ever had a “eating disorder” she could relate (aw, man! I’m so sorry she went through this, too!) and we hope the helps help everyone and anyone.
From me and my mum to you and your family, have a terrific, special holiday. —
>>I wrote this post out of my memories. Out of the remembrance of the feelings. I’m writing in the hopes it will be helpful to you or someone you know this Thanksgiving. I know it might seem sad, or terrible or even downright wrong. I’m sorry.
But to me it isn’t ‘wrong’. It’s just what life was. It’s just what life can be, any time I decide to go back.
It isn’t sad. It’s life. It’s a fight that is rewarding to win. I take it light-heartedly and try to say it for what it is because in my mind, though the thoughts are beastly and there is nothing more I wish than for it to be gone, the helps (no matter how silly), these things, aren’t terrible.
It’s a way to fight back. It’s a way to look at the situation with positivity. It’s a way to take something that alienates you from all others and work around it.
And that is what I love to do – take a group of impossible ingredients, unlikely situations, and make it work. I can always find a way around, and I love doing it. ‘That broke down, and this broke down, but I came up with this.’
So I hope I don’t weird you out. And I hope, most of all, that this will help you find a wonderful holiday in the midst of a terrible struggle, because you (the helper to your peep) didn’t fix it (the restrictive eating), you loved them. And left the real, hard, fighting for another day.<<
I have had many Thanksgivings. MOST of them stressful (for various reasons). I want to address one of the biggest stressors I have dealt with on some of my prior Thanksgivings… being a restrictive eater on a ‘binge’ holiday…
So, as we approach this Thanksgiving, I thought maybe I could help the families of those who have a restrictive eater/anorexic in their group.
The following will refer to anorexics, myself and others, and may or may not represent all types of restrictive eaters well. I’m just one person, and these circumstances may be unique to me. I’m mostly recovered, so I’m not really a ‘restrictive eater’ anymore – it’s a part of my past that I can speak on. Okay, it still influences me, now, but hey.
Thanksgiving is exceptionally a troublesome spot for anorexics and restrictive eaters. It’s just super stressful.
Here are some tips and pointers that will hopefully help you and your peep to enjoy your Thanksgiving better.
(And yes, this has nothing to do with “getting them to eat”.)
Where we are coming from:
Your anorexic (and possibly with restrictive eaters as well– (Mom’s insight: and many people that simply have difficulties with their weight or cravings)) will come to the party already having a running monologue running through their head. Already the accusations start. The excitement that may be evident over the food is a pretense. If they are an ‘eating restrictive eater’ (I was — versus a ‘non-eating restrictive eater’) they may have skipped breakfast, or even a whole previous day in order to “prepare” for this meal. Even that is not enough, the voice assures them. They will not be “allowed” to eat anything, and it is quite impossible for them to believe that isn’t true.
It’s founded on logic. Everything will be swirling in their head; any social interaction is ‘by the grace of God’ able to happen. Competing with the voice inside their head is taking all their energy.
So what can you do to help with that?
Provide an outdoor activity to do WITH NO GUILT:
This may seem counterintuitive to very concerned friends and family, but giving them an “out” where they follow what they feel they need to do will provide relief. Sweet, blissful relief. ‘I’m playing football, look I’m doing good’ – the inner monologue might go. Of course, the voice is always pointing out that one is not doing enough or that because you dropped the ball you have to catch three more, but it is MUCH better than the ‘inside-the-house’ voice. The outdoors have an amazing scientific effect on our mood that may be one reason this has such a help.
Bonus: Having “earned” a little more food, your peep might feel they can go and sneak some food. Yes, sneak. I have a feeling that if I earned a little more food, I would have felt I needed to creep back in the kitchen and take the bite. The voice will never tell them they can have food, but they might decide they can. Maybe your peep won’t sneak, but I might.
This is a comedic example of how I sometimes approach food. Don’t look at me, because I am concerned I’m wrong, already!!! 🙂
And the no guilt part: please don’t be a second voice (unless you really have to) telling them they shouldn’t play or do any activity because they are skinny, or overdoing it. If they are feeling good and okay for it, then let them do it – remember, the act of being outside and giving in will give relief, while hanging with the family will show them that they aren’t cut off and abandoned. Which it feels like: when your own brain is attacking you, how can your family not hate you?
Great Thanksgiving Outdoor activities: Football (I’ve heard), taking the dog for a walk (solitary, but lets us wrestle and put the voice down (or not) in quiet — Oh, so helpful — and the dog never gives anyone a guilt trip), Catch, Hula-hooping, Kick the ball, Frisbee, Fetch, etc.
I remember going to a Thanksgiving meal at a friend’s house, just as I started (non-self-induced)-recovery and I had skipped breakfast for the occasion. I had been faring okay thus far, but when I got to the house, which was usually kept really warm, the host jibly noted:
“Oh! It was such a nice day out, I decided to open the windows! Plus, I’m cooking a turkey anyway. You don’t mind do you?”
Of course I didn’t, as I stood there getting very, very cold. Her house, her prerogative, and her cooking. So not my place to complain. So as the hours wore on, and my remaining warmth wore thin, and my sugar started dropping, I started shaking and then shivering.
Another thing the anorexia attacked was my use of creature comforts. I didn’t deserve warmth, or A/C; I didn’t deserve a sweater (unless someone was wearing a parka), I didn’t deserve layers, and I definitely didn’t deserve a second blanket. I hated every moment I enjoyed one of these, and any solace I took in being ‘preserved’ by them. I didn’t know what to do.
So I tried to tough it out when I was super cold — there is no cold like having absolutely no body warmth… because you have no ‘body’. It’s crazy cold!
BT was there with me, and he heard me muttering under my breath (by accident) “cold. I’m so cold! I’m very cold.” (All the while running an argument with my head, carrying on social norms, and proper small talk…) In the blink of an eye, he disappeared into the living room where our host kept a basket of various warm, wooly blankets, and he brought one back. He opened it (as I protested), and wrapped it around my shoulders.
As soon as I felt the warmth, and BT’s pressure for me to keep it, I did. It was my constant companion for the rest of the afternoon. I wasn’t very cold anymore 🙂
Help your peep stay warm, guilt-free. Provide a source of ‘wooliness’ (soft and cuddly), if you can, that shows it is open and for anyone to use. They may just take advantage of it! 😀
Don’t pressure them:
It’s hard enough to eat when you are disobeying something. It’s like disobeying some cardinal rule, and your stomach is in knots. If they have the courage to do it, please don’t pressure them to do something or eat a certain amount. Thank you.
But, caveat, you know your peep better than I do. You know what they respond to. But I recommend letting Thanksgiving be a day of NOT eating if that is what they are wanting to follow that day, because there will be plenty of force-feedings in the recovery days ahead. (Which is totally worth it by the way, peeps!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!! BEAT THAT VOICE!!!!!!!!!! It’s possible and super happy when you do, too.)
At that same Thanksgiving, I could hang with a couple of card-game-loving peeps, just like myself. While we waited for the food, we started a game. We played games all the while until the food was ready. This total and absolute distraction from the source of anxiety was great. I don’t remember being anxious at all while we played the card games. 🙂
Great card games: Skip-bo, Uno, Gin Rummy, Rummy, Rat-a-tat-cat, Egyptian Rat Slap
The other option open to your peep:
The Brave Experience
Those first 20 seconds – “But every once and a while there is a day where I don’t have to be a princess.”
Every once and a while (but not on Thanksgiving or Christmas) I would have a time where I felt like I could eat. And when I ate, I would be hungry again (which is good for recovery). And for whatever reason, I could eat a normal amount of food without feeling very messed up in my digestion; I was hungry for it and I would let it be and eat until I felt okay. Never full, just not hungry. It was very rare to feel hungry, and usually it would only happen after I’d already eaten.
This happened when someone brought HUGE tins of homemade macaroni and cheese to church one day. It was macaroni and cheese so I let myself have some. Then I got hungry. Everybody had kind of petered out, and so I just let myself have another plate as many times as I wanted. No one else wanted it, they even gave me some to take home after everybody’d left, and i was just waiting for my company to be finished with their conversation. So I had a good big meal.
So (imagine Kelly McDonald saying this) every once in a while (end Ms. McDonald) the normal routine does not apply, and hungry guides the meal, and if that happens to land on Thanksgiving, CONGRATULATIONS!
By the way, we learned, later, that I had a severe intolerance for turkey. More than one player at work on Thanksgiving bringing complications. And it started as such a simple holiday!
And always, enjoy them, not their choices:
I know it’s worrying not to know if they will survive the night. I know that you see a skinny skeleton. I know that you are afraid for their life and their emotional health. You are worried and don’t know what to do.
I know it is hard.
Please, if you can, focus on who they are (if you have to, who they were) and show them you love them. Whether they grow or shrink, whether you have to hug their bony body for the rest of your life, whether they do what you want or not. It’s so super important.
Love is another unallowed luxury for me, at least, and it may be hard.
But you being there, that is all. That is enough. That will show that they are worthy of love, even if they don’t allow active hugs. (But give it a try! :D)
Are you/were you a restrictive eater? What do you think about these tips? Would they help you? Any others that would help you?
Do you family peeps have any questions?