'It can become overwhelming': Why Christmas can be triggering for people with eating disorders

  • By ITV Wales Reporter Katie Fenton

For most of us one of the things we look forward to at Christmas is an abundance of rich food but for those who struggle with eating disorders it can be a very challenging time of year.

At just fifteen years old Lara was diagnosed with anorexia. She told ITV Wales how she felt her lifestyle was revolving, with constant anxieties and complications around food and weight loss.

Lara said: "I became very fixated on scales and I was just very lost in a lifestyle of anxiety whereas I took it out on food and my body and my relationship with myself."

Lara was also suffering with bulimia and orthorexia, which is defined as an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food

Lara was also suffering with bulimia and orthorexia, which is defined as an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food. These problems would exacerbate around Christmas.

"It is very food-focused, it is very socially orientated", she said.

"Eating disorders thrive on secrecy, they thrive within independence, so once you're employed within the social environment it can become triggering, it can become quite overwhelming.

"I internalised my emotions, I was very anxious, I tried to hide away as much as I could just because that social environment was quite triggering."

Fast forward six years and aged 21, Lara has recovered and no longer finds Christmas triggering.

Lara has been using Youtube to help others by sharing her story Credit: Youtube / Lara Rebecca

She's also using her experiences to help others through her Youtube channel sharing her journey through fitness and exercise, running half marathons for the charity BEAT.

"I don't want to mourn it, I don't want to feel saddened by it, I don't want to have so many negative associations to my past history with disordered eating and mental health complexities, it's now quite refreshing and rewarding to be able to utilise my previous experiences in a positive and impactful way."

Lara has found fitness incredibly helpful on her journey to recovery

When asked what people struggling can do to reach out for support, Lara admits it will take some courage to let a friend of family know they're struggling and how there are ways they can help.

She said: "It almost comes back to that awareness and making sure that people feel comfortable in the food portions they're given, in the food themselves, or even having a small sign to somebody to say if you're feeling uncomfortable, if you need that bit of encouragement.

"I know with my dad, when I was quite ill, we'd developed a key word that I'd say that would be quite discreet, but we'd be able to communicate that I was feeling a little bit anxious and he'd know how to help me then. So it's just about bringing that awareness basically."

If you've been affected by the issues raised in Lara's story you can call Beat for free, 365 days a year on 0808 801 0433