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Gathering, cooking, and connecting with family through food is often a way to spend quality time together during the vacation season in America. For Americans who suffer from eating disorders, however, this can be difficult, especially in a country that often emphasizes abuse.

Approximately 28.8 million Americans fight eating disorders in their lifetimes. For many people who find it difficult to eat, the holidays can be a very exciting and difficult time. Between the vacations that have become food-centric and the inherent pressure of family, it’s important that people be more aware of how people might tackle their eating disorders and not comment on the problem. body image or the amount of food someone eats.

According to the National Association of Anorexia nervosa and Related Disorders, after opioid addiction, eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses. Sometimes it can be difficult to detect eating disorders because a person with an eating disorder may not be technically underweight; and it can be even harder to recognize them because loved ones may not know what to say or do, but there are some notable warning signs.

According to Mayo Clinic, a person with anorexia nervosa may experience dizziness, sleeplessness, and fear of gaining weight. Other common eating disorders include bulimia, binge eating disorder and rumination disorder. Rumination disorder is a condition in which a person spits up undigested food and swallows or spits it out. These eating disorders can include purging behaviors, consuming large amounts of food quickly, and restricting one’s food intake.

It has become normal to focus on consuming large amounts of food during the holiday season. Food plays a central role during holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas; this can be bothersome for a person with anorexia who wishes to restrict their intake and can also be difficult for a person with binge eating disorder and can lead to feelings of guilt or shame.

Families often get together during the holiday season. Sometimes the family presence itself can be difficult for people who have difficulty eating. Simple comments from the family about their weight or by mentioning how much or how little they eat can really cause negative effects on the psyche of people with eating disorders.

Above all for women and girls, there is a lot of emphasis on physical appearance, and thinness has long been a symbol of attractiveness; because of this, it’s easy to take to heart what may seem like innocent comments because we’re so obsessed with our body image.

On top of that, people with eating disorders are sometimes careful not to worry about their families.

“I hated the holidays when I was in my eating disorder. I felt like I was in a minefield of panic ”, Robyn Cruze and Espra Andrus, writers for the National Association of Eating Disorders Blogsaid in 2017. “I would tiptoe through eating disorder blasts just to deal with a worried family.”

People should pay attention to what they say about eating habits while on vacation. If people know other people who have eating disorders, they should make an effort to empathize and refrain from commenting on what they are eating.

there is a common phrasing that says “be nice, you never know what someone else is going through”, and this is especially true for those struggling with mental illness. Eating disorders are not a choice, they are not selfish or for attention, they are nothing but a mental health problem that millions of people face every day.

No one deserves to live in fear of food, fear of their body, or fear of lack of control; but the reality is that a lot of people do. Many people suffer from eating disorders in silence, and this silence does not lessen the severity of their struggle. If there is one thing we all need to keep in mind, it is that we had better err on the side of consideration than putting someone in an uncomfortable situation that can trigger them or their disorder.

It is important that people take into account what they tell someone about their body image or the amount of food they eat, especially during the holidays, as it could be very harmful no matter what. the intention. In order for us to be sensitive to the struggles of others, we must always have empathy.

This story was written by Grace Cady. She can be reached at [email protected]