Christmas Day call surge to eating disorder charities expected

Eating disorder charities are expecting a rise in calls from people struggling with anorexia and bulimia on Christmas Day.

Beat charity has said December 25 is often the most difficult day of the year for many people with eating disorders, and they have seen a 140% increase in calls to their helpline since February 2020.

The charity’s spokesperson Rebecca Willgress said Beat workers will “always be there” for people with eating disorders, including between 4pm and 8pm on Christmas Day, when phonelines and discreet chat forums will be open for those wanting help or advice.

She said: “We are open on Christmas Day for a reason. We get calls every year, it’s certainly the most difficult day of the year for many people with anorexia and bulimia.

“The second hardest time is the New Year, with all the messaging about dieting and new starts.”

She explained that the “huge focus on food” and “pressure to eat large amounts” can be “particularly triggering” for those suffering with an eating disorder or working towards recovery.

She added: “Often they are trying to hide their eating disorder from people around them, so it’s about feeling exposed to wider members of the family as well.

“2020 has been such a difficult year for everyone but for people with eating disorders particularly.

“Treatment programmes have been paused, social support networks have disappeared around them, so this Christmas may be even more difficult.”

Ms Willgress also gave advice for people living with someone who has an eating disorder, including planning Christmas dinner together in advance, allowing relatives to plate up their own food, and to have conversations at the table which don’t focus on food.

One in six adults in England has a possible eating disorder, including 28% of women aged 16 to 24, according to the Health Survey for England 2020, based on answers from more than 8,200 adults.

The study found that 16% of adults in 2019 (19% of women and 13% of men) screened positive for a possible disorder, including 4% who said their feelings about food interfered with their ability to work, meet personal responsibilities or enjoy a social life.

As well as Beat, Samaritans is open on Christmas Day for 24 hours, and can be contacted by phone on 116 123, by email and in person.