A Scots mum has warned of impact Christmas celebrations can have on those with eating disorders and the people who care for them.
Emma Broadhurst supported her daughter through her recovery from an eating disorder but says the festive season can be one of the most challenging times of the year.
She has been supported by Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, who have helped give her ways to take care of herself while also guiding her daughter through her illness.
The mum is now warning how the festive season, with the larger amounts of food and the breakdown of normal eating times, can be an extremely difficult period for some.
She said: “As a family we love Christmas and everything it brings, but when my daughter was unwell with her eating disorder it took on a whole different meaning.
“With more food around, eating at different times from normal, shorter, darker days, and a big focus on food it was very stressful and difficult to help my daughter navigate eating disorder thoughts and behaviours.”
An estimated 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from eating disorders.
They can affect can affect anyone of any age, race, gender, sexuality or background.
In November and December 2021, Beat increased the number of support sessions in Scotland by 65% compared to 2020 with help aimed at those with eating disorders as well as their carers, parents, siblings and partners.
The charity say they expect the demand to continue rising each festive season.
Ms Broadhurst added: “The best thing I ever did was attend Beat’s Coping with Celebrations course.
“It is a really practical, helpful course, lead by clinicians who completely understand what’s going on and suggest helpful ways to overcome the challenges and quieten the eating disorder voice.
“This will be our third year in recovery and I still have the chat with my daughter each Christmas about how things are going and what we can do to ensure the day is easier for her. I now know that any celebration will be fun and relaxing for everyone and that the eating disorder won’t be making an appearance around our table.”
To help carers feel less isolated during this time of year, Beat has opened spaces for its free online support programme, Coping with Celebrations.
The programme includes Zoom sessions where people can share concerns and questions and speak to others in similar situations as well as an e-learning module on how to prepare in the run-up to celebrations.
Kirsty Pavey, Beat’s national lead for Scotland, said: “We know that celebrations can be an isolating and stressful time for those with eating disorders and their loved ones, and it can be difficult to know how to navigate these times of year.
“At Beat we’ve been experiencing a year-on-year increase in demand for eating disorder support during the festive season, and we wouldn’t be surprised if 2022 becomes our most contacted year yet.
“We designed our Coping with Celebrations programme as a safe, supportive space for carers to share their experiences, hear from others in similar situations, and receive guidance. Carers can play such an important part in a person’s recovery, and we’d recommend that anybody who is currently supporting a loved one reaches out to us.”
The workshops are running until December 16 and can be booked via the Beat website.
Support is also available outside the festive season. The Developing Dolphins programme is a free course where carers can connect with others and learn tips and skills from a specialist eating disorder clinician.
The course is based on the principles of the New Maudsley method developed by leading expert Professor Janet Treasure.
Spaces are available for January and February 2023 and can be booked on Beat’s website.