3 On Your Side Investigates: Eating Disorders and the Holidays

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 8:30 PM CST

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Registered Dietitian Rebecca Turner is often a guest on WLBT, discussing healthy foods, tips and trends. But you may not know her relationship with food hasn’t always been so healthy. At one point in time, she says, it became a control issue.

“For me, that became what I was eating and how much I was working out. On the outside, (to) professors and friends, and I was fixing to get married, they thought, you had it all. But then on the inside, you’re wrestling with the fears around trying to keep the perfect weight,” Turner tells us.

Her life is in better balance now. But she’s not alone in having disordered eating thoughts and behaviors as part of her life experience.

According to The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), it’s estimated that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. The disorders include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, body dysmorphic disorders, and more. They can fall anywhere on the spectrum from mild to severe, or even deadly. Indulgent holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas can complicate the issues.

Dr. Crystal Lim is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and she works with families struggling with weight and health.

“The holidays are certainly a time that it can be problematic for everybody because there’s additional stress, but also because a lot of what we do involves eating,” she says.

A big part of managing or recovering from an eating disorder is support from trusted family. Because of that, Dr. Lim tells us, comments about food or body size during the holidays, even lighthearted comments, should be skipped.

“It’s important for everybody to really be mindful of the comments that we’re making about, you don’t know what people may be struggling with, whether it’s eating or body image or weight or health,” Dr. Lim adds.

Turner agrees.

“Leave food on the table but off the topic of conversation, and you will help everyone navigate the holidays and the new year with a little less fear and a little less anxiety,” she says.

Also, when it’s time for the holiday parties and potlucks, don’t feel like you have to indulge in the foods that trigger you. Just bring the foods that you can eat and will eat, and that are healthy for you, like fruits and vegetables.

“It is a special time of the year, we do want to celebrate, and part of that is just in moderation,” Dr. Lim says.

If you or someone you know needs help with disordered eating behaviors, call NEDA at 800-931-2237 or visit their website.

UMMC has a Weight Management Clinic that serves children and adults. The number is 601-984-1285.

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