Dealing with Food Pushers During the Holidays and New Year

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Eating Disorder Hope

raspberry-handed-166378_640The food pushers. Recognized by their uncanny attention to details about how much you have or have not eaten. Identified by such phrases as, “Eat some more of this dear”, “Or why don’t you try a bite of this?”

No matter how well intentioned, food pushers can drive you right over the edge when you are fighting for your life in recovery from an eating disorder.

No matter where you go, you will likely encounter such a food pusher in your life – be it a good-hearted grandmother, friend or even a random stranger. Other people may feel inclined to share their thoughts on what you should eat, and this can begin to influence how you feel or think about yourself.  It should be clarified that these individuals are not the same as family members or treatment professionals who have been trained to meal support and offer coaching during recovery.

The Provocation of Those External Voices

When struggling with an eating disorder, these external voices can provoke resentment, confusion, or further fuel eating disorder behaviors. You may second-guess yourself or your body, and these types of questions from outsiders can send your mind spinning into a spiral of doubts and irrational thinking.

As one who is in recovery, how can you approach these types of situations to help you stay focused?

Tips for Dealing with Food Pushers

Here are some helpful tips that can be helpful to you, not just during the holidays but also in any type of situation where you may encounter “food pushers”.

These suggestions may also be helpful in any instances where external voices are counterproductive to your recovery process:

Maintain appropriate boundaries and expectations:

owl-374944_640No matter how hard you might try to help others understand your position or the struggles you have faced with an eating disorder, the complexities can be difficult to comprehend. Getting into arguments, debates, or disagreements will not be helpful to either party.

While it can be frustrating to encounter friends or family members who are clueless about your struggles, try to remain positive and focused on your recovery. Many people have a hard time understanding that an eating disorder is truly a disease, not a choice, and many statements that are said may come from this underlying belief.

When you understand the lack of understanding that is often behind things said, it is easier to look at things more objectively. If a conversation is brought up that is triggering or insensitive, use appropriate coping mechanisms.

Understand Things Are Not Intentional

Understand that things are not often intentional; so do not allow your eating disorder to feed off of these things.

If someone mentions something about your food or tells you how much they think you should or should not eat, that does not mean, “I am fat”, “They must think I’ve put on weight”, “I should be eating less”, “I should be eating more”, etc.

These are often the irrational thoughts that spiral out of control and trigger eating disorder behaviors. Stop these thoughts right in their tracks and look at the big picture!

Stay focused on your progress and recovery:

eye-240843_640Whatever phase of your recovery you may be in, you will always encounter people who do not understand or say things that may be insensitive. Remember that your recovery does not hinge on what other people do or do not do.

Your recovery is dependent upon YOU and the choices that you make. If you experience a setback, you have the ability to pick up where you were and continue forward. Remind yourself of the progress you have made and the ways in which you have overcome your eating disorder.

If you are struggling to recognize the positive aspects in your life, ask a trusted friend or family member. Eating disorders are powerful diseases that can be overwhelming, and you certainly do not need to fight alone.

Work with your treatment team:

While you are the one in charge of your recovery, you need professionals and specialists who can help guide you. Especially in the early phases of recovery, it is critical to have the help of eating disorder specialists.

If you are malnourished as a result of your eating disorder, you cannot make rational decisions or be expected to know how to recover from an eating disorder. For these reasons, you will need professionals to guide you through the process. As you heal in all aspects, you can learn to trust yourself and your body to guide you once again.

Your recovery process is a journey that will take you through many ups and downs. Learning how to navigate through trialing periods or how to approach people who do not understand your journey will help you progress and overcome any obstacle.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What tools have you found to help you focus on recovery when others around you may not understand your journey?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 7th, 2014
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