Holiday meals are a time for us to come together with loved ones in shared celebration. When an eating disorder takes a seat at the table, food can literally go flying, sending everyone into a tailspin. Celebration quickly becomes the last thing on the family agenda.

If your child has been diagnosed with an eating disorder, you may be more aware than ever of the differences you see in eating style between this Thanksgiving and last Thanksgiving. As upsetting as it may be to see these changes, try to be truly present at mealtime. Put your anxiety to the side for this special meal and decide to be an observer. Take mental notes. Note where there is progress and where improvements could benefit your child. Are food choices become more variable or more restrictive? Are portions appropriate for your child’s growth needs? Are there any rituals you notice with respect to how or when food is eaten? Is your child participating in the social aspect of the meal or is the focus strictly on food or avoidance of eating (i.e., shuffling food around the plate, hiding food in the napkin, lots of participation in cooking but not eating, etc.)?

Please share with me your observations from the holiday mealtime.

Most importantly, use your observations to further refine your refeeding strategy and even the most difficult meal, even if it is upsetting or not ideal in some way, can be utilized for future recovery.

About the Author

Joy Jacobs J.D., Ph.D.

Joy Jacobs, J.D., Ph.D., is an assistant clinical professor at UCSD School of Medicine. She is an expert in eating disorders and weight management.

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