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What should we consider?

During Christmas, meals are the main protagonists and this is especially complicated for people diagnosed with an Eating Disorder (ED). Agreeing on the menu in advance, not controlling what is eaten or avoiding comments about body image are some tips to help families on these dates.

TCA and Christmas: What should we consider?


Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo

If there’s one thing at Christmas it’s the many gatherings where food gets all the attention, which can become a real ordeal for people who suffer from an OCD, be it anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder or any other

The Eating Disorders (ED) are mental health pathologies that manifest themselves through different symptoms and obsessions that are related to food and body image.

As pointed out by Centa Instituteat the base of ACTs are psychological problems and deep relational difficulties.

These types of disorders are not the result of superficiality or vanity, but represent real suffering for the people who suffer from them.

“The main trigger for an ACT is eating a restrictive diet with an aesthetic motivation. This together with other factors such as low self-esteem, perfectionism, insecurity, low tolerance for frustration or impulsivity generates the appropriate breeding ground for the pathology to manifest“, explain Adriana Esteban, psychologist of the TCA Unit at Institut Centa.

Faced with this situation: How can we act?

The doctor Marina Díaz Marsá, head of the TCA Unit at the Hospital Clínic San Carlos, president of the Madrid Psychiatry Society and director of the Sommos Clinic in Madridclarifies that during the Christmas celebrations intense anxiety is very present in these patients.

“For them it is a kind of torture. People with OCD have great anxiety in front of intakes that they do not control and also because they have to eat with people who, often, they do not trust. In addition, the food is much more abundant and desirable, and includes sweets and other foods that they have to struggle with”aim

In this way, Dr. Marsà recommends that family members talk to them about the situations they will face:

  • When and with whom you will eat.
  • Patients should not be involved in the preparation of meals.
  • They should prepare a support plan and avoid leaving a lot of food available in the environment.
  • Establish topics of conversation that do not revolve around food.
  • Avoid very long tabletops.
  • It is important to be kind, smile and generate positive emotions at the table.
  • Be patient, don’t forget that you are going through an illness.

What to do?

On the other hand, Elena Toledano, nutritionist at the Centa Instituteoffers some guidelines for the family to become a nurturing and protective space for the person.

Knowing how to act and create an environment where they feel comfortable and without pressure is very important.

The nutritionist points out how advices:

  • Let these people be the ones to choose what and how much to eat at all times
  • There can be no surprises for what it takes discuss and pre-arrange the dishes with which they feel safe.
  • We express how grateful we are to share and enjoy time together.
  • Promote one healthy care that enables
  • We talk and think about different activities that we can do as a family and that have nothing to do with food.
TCA Christmas
EFE/ Villar López

What not to do at Christmas with people with OCD?

It is also important to be aware that there are certain attitudes and comments that are not appropriate, as they can lead to an even more uncomfortable situation for these patients.

“Comments with the best intentions in the world may be harming the health and unconsciously increasing the discomfort of our family member with OCD”points out the expert from the Centa Institute.

In this way, Elena Toledano mentions what we should not do:

  • to control what is served on the plate or Forcing to eat more.
  • Insist on in which he tries recipes or dishes no matter how rich or Christmassy they are.
  • Avoid whatever it costs comments about the physique, diets, compensations, slimming, good or bad foods…
  • There shouldn’t be blackmail emotions.
  • You don’t have to focus on Christmas at lunch.

“A person suffering from an ED must want to heal but they cannot do it alone. The family is part of the solution when they learn to distinguish what feeds the disorder from what nourishes their loved one”concludes, on the other hand, the psychologist of the Family Unit of the Centa Institute, Maria Bustamante.

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