Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Be a Safe Place This Thanksgiving

Today, I sat at a coffee shop on a cloudy afternoon and listened to people share their Thanksgiving plans. I went to the grocery store and bought cranberries and chicken and rosemary and chives. I fought the crowds for a parking spot with the best of 'em. I sat in the kitchen and watched my sister cut onions and make delicious food.

It's been three years since our last Thanksgiving in the United States. Two years since I ate snail soup on Thanksgiving. A year since I blogged that, "we won't always be so far away." And here we are, not so far away, in the States with people we love spending the holidays how we always have and how we likely always will.

There's comfort in familiarity and there's thrill in the foreign.

I'm lucky to have experienced both. What a gift.

Beyond the gift of travel, is the gift of healing. And Thanksgiving will forever be a reminder to me of the healing and growth and recovery that has taken days, week, months, and years. And so on the eve of a day that still haunts and torments many a person with anorexia and/or bulimia, I'd like to share a few thoughts on ways to support a person with an eating disorder, but also EVERYONE at the table. Because there is likely someone in your life that has an eating disorder you know nothing about AND there's always room for a little more compassion even for the other folk gathered around your table:

1. STOP asking people if they've lost/gained weight
     What a boring a judgey question anyway. Certainly, we are far more interesting as human beings than numbers on a scale.

2. Talk about things other than food
     And please-oh-please do not comment on how much or how little a person is eating. None of your damn business, that's what they're eating!

3. Stop rationalizing your food choices
     No one really cares that you were "bad" and ate a muffin this morning. No one really cares that you were "good" and ran three miles this morning. Again, this only makes us all stupider as human beings.

4. Put your bathroom scale away
     Better yet, throw it in the trash. Get rid of it for good. If you're overweight you'll know it because your clothes aren't fitting. Fixating on numbers is what contributes to eating disorders anyway. I can pinpoint precise moments at another person's home when I stepped on the scale and it set me back another few months. Not their fault. Just a nice gesture.

5. Don't use ED-specific language as a joke
     You finding "binging" on pumpkin pie laughable only makes a person feel trivialized. And claiming that you couldn't be anorexic because you lack the willpower doesn't make anyone feel accomplished or proud.

6. Offer something to do before or after the meal
     Sitting around in preparation of eating and in the after-math of eating is about the hardest time for a recovering person. Suggest a walk. Ask if they wanna play cards. Basically, anything is everything.

7. Don't make observations about what their eating
     Likely if a person is trying to hide eating disordered behaviors they won't fulfill your curiosity to witness it anyway. So trust that the person is following a best-laid plan unless they ask specifically for your help.

Basically, leave this person's recovery to the experts. And please avoid body-shaming talk and conversation about fat and calories that often pervades so much of our culture as some kind of weird, national past-time.

We're all getting better, people. Every day. We're all learning how to love each other better.

Here's to that well-worth-it journey.

Happy Thanksgiving!