Christmas is not just one single holiday at Kartini Clinic, it is several. In fact it’s a season involving many celebrations and special events. Some of our patients’ families do not celebrate Christmas as such, of course, but for those who do, some “highlights”: Baking… baking… baking. It’s a problem in many ways. And the truth is, no matter how appealing the picture of doing so may be, or how often it’s been done before in your family, probably not everyone should make/bake cookies to “share”:
  • The worst possible scenario, from an eating disorder treatment perspective, would be where the young person bakes extravagantly for others, but does not themselves eat anything they have made, because, well, how eating disordered is that?
  • The second worst scenario would be that a child not yet ready to eat hyperpalatable food (controversial, I know) begins to binge with all the baking and sweets-making, and experiences a whole cascade of negative behaviors and feelings downhill of that.
  • The third worst scenario would be the presence of cookies, cakes and lots of food talk causing panic, meltdowns and unhappiness in a child or young adult who is struggling to recover. Believe me, this happens. You think I care who eats sweets? No, but the kids do, and it is they who have made us aware of these painful scenarios.
“Controlling the infield chatter” is probably one of the next biggest issues.
  • The dear uncle who, knowing his niece has an eating disorder and has been in treatment, and believing that she needs her struggle acknowledged, stares in astonishment at the food put on her plate and says loudly “Wow! Even I couldn’t eat that much… Good for you!”
  • Or the very thin cousin who says pointedly “No, thanks, I’ll just have salad. I over-ate yesterday.”
  • Or the grandmother who whispers to her grandson, newly released from the hospital “I think you’d better just decide to eat. Don’t you know what this has done to your family?”
  • Or the older sib who lets it slip that Christmas will be lean this year because of the cost of treatment.
Big dinners, lots of treats, lots of talk. Challenging recipes for our kids, if not out-and-out disasters. Maybe this year is the year to pare down Christmas festivities to their most basic. A time to become quiet and focused on joy and gratitude, instead of trying to please everyone else. Worth a try.