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'It was like walking into a nightmare': How holiday meals heighten the stress of eating disorders –



Jenni Schaefer doesn’t consider the holidays a stressful time of year anymore, but it wasn’t always that way.

“It’s like night and day compared to back when I had an eating disorder,” says the Texas-based author of Living Without ED and senior fellow at The Meadows, a treatment centre for people grappling with eating disorders and other conditions.

“It’s really hard when a time of the year that’s supposed to be so joyful can be so triggering and so hard for people.”


Schaefer remembers struggling with her body image since she was four years old, staring at herself in the mirror in dance class and thinking she wasn’t good enough, she said. By the time she reached college, those insecurities had morphed into “full blown” anorexia.

When Jenni Schaefer was coping with an eating disorder, the holidays were ‘like walking into a nightmare,’ she says. (Valerie Fremin Photography)

When it came time for the holidays, “it was like walking into a nightmare because you never knew what people were going to say,” she told Cross Country Checkup.

Schaefer recalls family get-togethers being centred around food, with relatives cooking, constantly talking about what they were eating, and commenting on the appearance of family members, especially if they hadn’t seen each other in a while.

Meanwhile, she was stressing about whether she’d eaten too much, how she looked, and when she could “sneak in the next cookie.”

“The eating disorder really just strips away the joy and the meaning [of the holidays] and it strips away the family, and it’s devastating and it feels like it’s never going to end,” she said. 

But it can get better — with support, says Schaefer. She has been fully recovered from her eating disorder for over a decade now.

How to cope during the holidays

Schaefer says it’s important for people to avoid asking loved ones about food or their weight if that person is struggling with an eating disorder. Instead, ask what you can do to support them, she suggests.

“It always helped me when my family planned things that did not surround food,” she said. “For instance, we would go bowling on Christmas Day, or go outside for a walk, or play a basketball game or go to a movie.”

Schaeffer recommends being truthful with loved ones about an eating disorder, so they can give you support. (Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock)

If you don’t know what’s going to be served at your holiday dinner, you can call ahead to find out and make a plan for how to approach the meal, Schaefer says. If you have a dietitian, she recommends getting their guidance.

Maureen Plante, co-director at the Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta, also suggests finding a friend to text or call if you start to feel anxious about going to a holiday event. 

As someone who has also struggled with anorexia, bulimia and over-exercising, Plante says too much focus on food can cause people with eating disorders to isolate themselves by limiting social interactions.

Plante says it’s important for family and friends to really listen to a person who is struggling with an eating disorder, and to find out how they can support them. (Submitted by Maureen Plante)

“So I think it’s so important [for people with eating disorders] to be able to talk about it,” she said. 

Although it may take courage, Schaefer suggests telling people the truth about what you’re struggling with.

“There’s so much secrecy and shame around an eating disorder and the holidays a great time to be able to be honest,” she said. “That’s what the holidays are really about: connection and meaning and purpose.”

Plante says it’s important to really listen to what a person with an eating disorder has to say.

“Family is so important. And just taking the time to be present with that person, to talk to them, to check in with them, not being judgmental, and even coming up with a safety plan if need be,” she said.

Where to get help

National Eating Disorder Information Centre

Toll-free helpline: 1-866-633-4220

Canada Suicide Prevention Service

Toll-free 1-833-456-4566

Text: 45645


In French: Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553) 

Kids Help Phone: 

Phone: 1-800-668-6868

Text: TALK to 686868 (English) or TEXTO to 686868 (French)

Live Chat counselling at 

Post-Secondary Student Helpline:

Phone: 1-866-925-5454 

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre

If you’re worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. Here are some warning signs:

  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Purposelessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Feeling trapped.
  • Hopelessness and helplessness.
  • Withdrawal.
  • Anger.
  • Recklessness.
  • Mood changes.

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The Key Role of Trustworthy Babysitters in Balancing Work and Family Life




Are you a busy parent in constant pursuit of the elusive work-life balance? We know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to juggle professional commitments while still having quality time with your children.

That’s why we’re here to discuss an essential ingredient that unlocks the secret to harmony: trustworthy babysitters.

What Characteristics Parents Should Look for When Choosing a Babysitter?

Parents should look for a few key characteristics when choosing a babysitter. A good babysitter should be patient, responsible, and reliable. They should also be comfortable with children and have prior experience caring for them.

Besides, the babysitter must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions well. The babysitter should be someone the parents can trust to care for their children in their absence.


Strategies for Parents to Establish Reasonable Anticipations

As a parent, finding babysitters you can trust to care for your children is vital. However, it is also important to establish reasonable expectations for your babysitters.

Some tips for establishing reasonable expectations for babysitters include:

  1. Set clear expectations: Sit down with your babysitter to discuss bedtime routines, dietary preferences, and any necessary medications.
  2. Allow flexibility: While clarity is vital, also provide room for your babysitter to use their judgment and feel comfortable in their role.
  3. Trust their expertise: Once expectations are set, trust your babysitter’s judgment as a professional caregiver to avoid undermining their authority and creating discomfort in their role.

Determining a Fair Payment Plan

Determine your babysitting budget, factoring in your income and family size, while researching local rates. Account for the babysitter’s experience and qualifications, giving preference to those recommended by trusted sources.

Engage in open negotiations with your chosen babysitter. This aims to find a mutually agreeable arrangement that accommodates both your budget and their needs.

Tips on Finding Trustworthy and Compassionate Caregivers

When seeking a caregiver for your child, to ensure you find the right fit:

  • Seek recommendations from trusted sources such as friends, family, and neighbours who may have suggestions for caregivers in your area.
  • Conduct online research to review feedback and check references to gauge candidates’ qualifications and experience.
  • Request references and contact details from the caregivers’ previous employers or families they have worked with.
  • Trust your instincts and ensure you feel at ease with the caregiver, ensuring they are someone you can entrust with your child’s well-being.


Being able to trust your babysitter means you can have peace of mind knowing your child is safe and cared for.

Spending some time researching online reviews or asking friends and family for recommendations will help you find the perfect fit so you can feel more at ease while juggling work commitments in today’s hectic world.

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Facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home



THUNDER BAY — St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have declared a facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home, part of the St. Joseph’s Heritage complex on Carrie Street near Red River Road.

The respiratory outbreak at the 112-bed facility was declared effective Sept. 15 but only announced publicly on Monday.

No details were provided with regard to the number of people affected to date.

Restrictions are now in place for admissions, transfers, discharges, social activities and visitation until further notice.




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Alberta COVID hospitalizations up 73% since July: health minister



Three weeks after the start of the school year, Alberta’s health minister provided an update on the spread of airborne viruses in the province.

Adriana LaGrange also said more information about flu and next-generation COVID-19 vaccines will soon be released.

“Now that we will be spending more time indoors, we need to make doubly sure we are following proper hygiene protocols like handwashing and staying home when sick,” LaGrange said. “It also means respecting those who choose to wear a mask.”


Global News previously reported that influenza vaccines will be available on Oct. 16 with the new Moderna vaccine formulated to target the XBB.1.5 variant likely to be available at around the same time. On Sept. 12, Health Canada approved the use of the Moderna vaccine.

“More information on immunizations against respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 will be available shortly,” the health minister said.

LaGrange said there have been 28 cases of influenza and five lab-confirmed cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Aug. 28.

“This is consistent activity for this time of the year,” the health minister said in a statement.

The end of August or the beginning of September has typically marked the beginning of flu season for provincial health authorities.

LaGrange also provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the province.

From Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, there were a total 92 new hospitalizations and three ICU admissions, bringing the total to 417 in hospital and seven in ICU, a 73 per cent increase of COVID hospitalizations from the last reported info.

On July 24 – the last update to the province’s COVID data dashboard – there were only 242 in hospital.

“Sadly, five Albertans died during that period due to COVID-19,” LaGrange said.

LaGrange said the reporting dashboard is being refreshed to include RSV, influenza and COVID-19 data, work that was originally expected to be completed on Aug. 30. The latest data on the province’s influenza statistics dashboard is dated July 22.

“This work is currently underway and will be available in the coming weeks,” LaGrange said.

She said data for the dates between July 24 and Aug. 27 will be available when the new dashboard goes online.

Amid more hospitals continent-wide reinstating masking requirements in the face of increased hospitalizations, the health minister made no mention of any such moves for Alberta hospitals. Acute care COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta jumped from Sept. 5 to 12, with 146 per cent more healthcare workers and 55 per cent more patients testing positive for COVID.

LaGrange stressed the “collective responsibility” to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like COVID and influenza.

“As a mother and grandmother, I understand the anxiety that comes with sending your children back to school. I want to reassure you that Alberta’s government has the health and well-being of all young Albertans top of mind,” the health minister said.

–with files from Meghan Cobb, Global News



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