Courtesy of Satya Murthy
The holiday season is often known for causing stress around seeing extended family and finding the perfect gifts during Black Friday sales, but there is another significant stressor and it centers around holiday food, specifically for those battling an eating disorder.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, approximately 30 million people will develop an eating disorder, and 10 million will include men.
For many people with an eating disorder, calories are seen as the enemy and for those in recovery, hearing the caloric content of the food they are eating can trigger a relapse.
On November 16, a group of students on the Scottsdale Community College campus handed out flyers containing statistics about Thanksgiving food to students who were walking to class. Among the statistics were the number of calories the average American eats on Thanksgiving, and how to burn off all of the calories one might consume on the holiday through various activities such as running, or swimming laps.
We spoke with Tess Alexander, an Arizona State University student majoring in secondary education, to see how she would feel if these statistics were given to her on the campus of ASU.
Alexander often finds herself annoyed by people trying to hand her flyers while she is walking around campus, and says she would be upset if she was given one of these flyers.
“I always kind of avoid any calorie counts in my food because I feel like that’s a very easy way to make people feel bad about themselves. Especially if it’s Thanksgiving,” Alexander said, “I’m trying to eat, I’m trying to have a good time.”
Alexander added that she has a healthy relationship with food, and that she feels thankful for the meal her mom prepares on Thanksgiving. However, she recognizes the difficulty some people may face if they were to receive this flyer detailing their meal’s calorie content.
“It could be triggering. They [students handing out flyers] were probably trying to do a good thing, but it doesn’t take into consideration people who would be triggered by it.” Alexander said.
She acknowledged that the flyers were likely made with good intentions to encourage people to make healthy choices, but the intention is not conveyed well.
“That’s kind of an abrasive way to do it. They’re trying to do a good thing, but it’s maybe not the best way to approach it.” Alexander said.
A recent article from USA Today reports several points of advice for people with eating disorders and how to cope with the many triggering aspects of Thanksgiving, as well as suggestions for loved ones who want to avoid triggering unwanted thoughts to someone who may be suffering with an eating disorder.
Carisa Miner, a registered nurse, shared her opinion about the flyers that were handed out on campus.
“I think that people – especially people with an eating disorder- would be affected by it [the flyers]. My brother, growing up, he was bulimic and it took him a while to feel comfortable just eating around people. And for someone who was overweight even, I think that would be really, really hurtful to just pass that out.” Miner said. “I think it’s very insensitive.”
Miner said that her brother is in good health now and he will eat anything, but when his bulimia was at its worst, holidays were especially difficult.
“I think that holidays were probably worse – or maybe at times it was easier to hide it because there were so many people so that he wasn’t tracked with how much he ate.” Miner said.
Miner likes to focus on the joy that is in Thanksgiving by spending time with her family and cooking a wonderful meal.
“I think that Thanksgiving should be about being together, about being with your loved ones and it shouldn’t be about counting calories at all.” Miner said.