F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum

Welcome to F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum. This is a free service provided for parents of those suffering from eating disorders. It is moderated by kind, experienced, parent caregivers trained to guide you in how to use the forum and how to find resources to help you support your family member. This forum is for parents of patients with all eating disorder diagnoses, all ages, around the world.

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EB
I can probably give thanks this year for not having to think about being in the least bit festive until 2016 is almost done, but US Thanksgiving is not my holiday. I have, however, faced more than one Christmas in seasons past with an eating disorder joining the family at the table, so I have some idea of how a festive table can be a flashpoint - I also know that in the past I have negotiated some hotly contested peace agreements well in advance of the day that I have lived to bitterly regret.

One of FEAST's advisory panel has written and recently re-issued a blog post on the subject (you can read it here); it touches on some of the perils.  Some in the trenches here might find it a helpful read if you are approaching Thanksgiving, or other fancy holiday meal.

This subject comes up here pretty much every year too.  There are some fabulous threads that can be searched for on this forum; ones that come immediately to mind include the one that introduced me to the concept of the tofurkey (and I am with Mr NY Times Food Editor's advice on this one) and another entitled "Three Males and Three Snacks on Thanksgiving" - which gave us pause for thought before the explanation (voice recognition software meets Atlanta, Georgia Southern accent) gave us a good laugh.

If anyone wants to share concerns or hints and tips about this subject matter, feel free to add them here. My tuppence, for what it is worth, is that the less we focus on the food being special, the fewer people round the table that are not attuned to the delicacy of the conversation around food and weight gain or loss, the easier it can be.  I am far from an expert in managing this in ideal fashion - I do believe that having a plan can help, and my experience would lead me to advise to keep it pretty low key.

Erica, UK
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bluebooks
We sent an email (below) to all of our family that would be visiting to help them anticipate the changes surrounding our son.  For the most part everything went well.  Unfortunately, we shared one meal with extended-extended family to whom we did not send the email.  A cousin followed my son around the buffet table berating him for putting too much on his plate.  I had to resist giving her a piece of my mind!

Here is the email we sent:  

"Since we're all going to be together for some of the holidays, I wanted to ask for your help with N. He listens to everyone really carefully and is very affected by the things you say. So if you don't mind, I'm going to just give you a do/don't list.


Do:
Give honest praise.
Talk to him.
Ask about playing the guitar, playstation, school, scouts or other things he is interested in.
Offer him food (if you're offering it to everyone). It's okay if he says, "no."
Say, "it's great to see you."
Gracefully change the subject if weight, calories, etc. come up.
Change the channel if these topics come up in a tv show.
Hide the scale (is that okay, Mom?).

Don't:
Talk about diets, weight, or sizes.
Push him to eat (we'll do that).
Give him lectures.
Give him too many decisions to make.
Say, "you look great" or "you're too skinny." It just reinforces the anorexia.
Talk about calories, fat content, trans fats or other such things.
Talk about healthy foods, good/bad foods or exercise. It's okay for you to exercise -- just don't talk about it.
Let him search for "anorexia" or "calories" on the computer. I don't expect you to enforce this -- I'll do it. But if you see it happening, please let me know privately.
Be offended if I kick you under the table for any of the above "don'ts."

We'll have some extra foods there for N (muffins, poptarts, carnation instant breakfast, whole milk, etc.). I'll bring some to share with you and your kids (I don't want to make a scene with the other kids not getting to have some). Just be aware that those foods are there to help us get N enough calories each day. I'll try to label them so you know."
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EB
I want to press a heart button on all of that!
Erica, UK
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cbmum
bluebooks, thanks so much for that.  MIL is visiting this Christmas, and doesn't really have a clue.  That is to say, she knows, but she doesn't "have a clue" and has asked me for a steer on "do's and don't"s.  I think it would really help if I give her a similar list, starting with yours as the basis.  We have a bit of time here in the UK, so I'll be watching this thread with interest!
D, b.2002, diagnosed with depression, anxiety and EDNOS Spring/Summer 2016.
Some restricting, some vomiting, some self-harm for good measure.
FBT, CBT, now on 3rd type of anti-d's.
D is "cured" of the ED but still on low dose of anti-d's. Will I ever be cured?

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mdmama
Last Christmas we traveled cross-country to be with my parents, siblings, aunts, and grandmothers. We traveled less than a month after my D had been released from five days of hospitalization and less than two months after her initial diagnosis of AN. When we were headed to my parents' house, my girl had been gaining weight very well and following our requirements at mealtime without (much) complaint, but I was still dreading a few of the bigger holiday meals because I have various family members-- many of whom did not know about D's hospitalization-- who tend to talk at length about their own dietary issues. (Lactose intolerance, high protein preferences, etc etc.) No one is overweight or trying to lose weight but the topic of "I can't eat such-and-such" seems to come up frequently. With that in mind, my wonderful father (who knew all about D's situation) sent this e-mail to everyone who would be at our handful of big all-family meals (both those in the know about D's AN and those who were oblivious):

Dear family—

We’re excited about being together in the coming days.   Since food will be playing a central role in our festivities, we want to share thoughts on this front. 

 Many of us have special dietary needs, which we’ve taken into account while planning meals.  There should be plenty of healthy options for everyone.   With that taken care of, our request is that we all refrain from talking about diet-related health stuff while we’re together.  Let’s spend our food-related time enjoying what we’re eating rather than talking about it!

 


It went really well and I don't think anyone noticed that I was plating D's food, insisting on more snacks than usual, etc. It certainly helped that all of her siblings and cousins are younger than her, so things like midday snacks, enjoyment of dessert, etc. were easy to accomplish in the company of all of the other kids. (My D was 12 at the time.)

Best of luck to all of you in the U.S. during this week's Thanksgiving meal. 

 


_______
D diagnosed with AN November 2015 , the week she turned 12. Gaining slowly but steadily, fingers crossed...
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bluebooks
CBMUM - It was also my MIL that I worried most about.  I had never paid attention to how frequently dieting and body size came up until my son got sick.  We found that being blunt worked best.  Some didn't understand (still don't) our concerns, but it didn't matter as long as they were willing to play by our rules (which they usually were).  
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ed_newbie
My d was heading downhill rapidly this time last year.  I remember clearly on Thanksgiving day thinking that she ate more than what she would normally eat at a typical meal.  She ate so very little at the time that her meal on Thanksgiving day seemed almost "normal" but in fact it was pitifully small.  We were also dealing with the death of d's grandfather the day before Thanksgiving.  So there was a lot going on to say the least.  She was diagnosed RAN about a month later. Looking back on this time I recognize how "not normal" her behaviors were with respect to food and meals.  

We just returned from her nutritionist appointment today where we talked about how this Thanksgiving will be so much more enjoyable now that d is eating "normally".  We are still tackling a few fear foods, lingering behaviors, and depression but it is truly amazing how far she has come in her recovery.  What a difference a year makes - a year of full nutrition, brain healing, learning about ED's and co-morbids, medications, therapy, and most of all LOVE!  So despite our lingering issues we certainly have a lot to be thankful for!

 

"Lineage, personality and environment may shape you, but they do not define your full potential."    Mollie Marti  

ed_newbie

15 yr old d diagnosed with AN late December 2015 at the age of 12 after a 23 lb weight loss during prior 3 months. Started FBT/Maudsley at home on Christmas Eve with support from amazing local nutritionist specializing in ED and trained in FBT. WR Feb 2016 and pushing our way through puberty and rapid growth.
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EB
Hoping that those who are partaking may find whatever strengths they need to keep them thankful during today and the holidays to come.  Do keep posting here - what works, what hasn't, what you may have learned - all a useful record that will help inform future planning for many others here.
Happy_Thanksgiving.png 
Erica, UK
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cbmum
I have something to give thanks for today.  This afternoon, after a couple of disappointingly slow weeks, D weighed in at 51kg, 1kg more than target.  I know we have a long way to go, and it's two steps forward, one step back, but today was definitely two steps forward and I'll take that.
Happy Thanksgiving to all our US friends, may your day be happy and healthy.
D, b.2002, diagnosed with depression, anxiety and EDNOS Spring/Summer 2016.
Some restricting, some vomiting, some self-harm for good measure.
FBT, CBT, now on 3rd type of anti-d's.
D is "cured" of the ED but still on low dose of anti-d's. Will I ever be cured?

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Kali
Thankful and proud of my d. for every bite she ate yesterday, including dessert!
We did a potluck for Thanksgiving so we decided ahead of time what we to bring and it was something that d. chose.

Kali

Food=Love
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