Thanksgiving can be a difficult time for someone who suffers from an eating disorder. Even if you are recovering from an eating disorder, being around food and family can be an uncomfortable trigger during a holiday that is meant to be all about gratitude. Before you decide to bow out of Thanksgiving altogether, just know that you have tools you can use to get you through this holiday and the other ones that will come after.
Understand your fear
Probably the main thing that causes your anxiety is fear. When someone asks you about your food which is common at a Thanksgiving table. You could feel judged even if that was not their intention. You may have weight fluctuations whether you are in your eating disorder or recovering from it and someone could comment on your body. These comments could set you over the edge and cause you to become upset. If a loved one brings up your struggle in front of others, this could completely humiliate you. If this sounds familiar to you, or you have other issues you have endured in the past that have caused you to fear Thanksgiving, find a way to combat what others do before you go. Talk about it with your therapist to see how you can better handle your loved ones and learn how to set boundaries that could help you to better cope.
Find your support
Going through eating disorder recovery alone is not feasible when you are trying to handle situations like Thanksgiving dinner. You may need to have a secret gesture to indicate you need help or secretly text someone during the dinner who can aid you in enduring the comments and give you the strength to keep moving forward. You can also have your sponsor or some recovery buddies on call if you get too uncomfortable at the table because just knowing that you can have support at your fingertips can allow you to remain calm around others who do not understand what you may be going through. You can also call someone else who is also having a hard time with their eating disorder to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving and distract them from their own disorder. Being of service on Thanksgiving Day is an excellent opportunity to be in tune with what the holiday is all about.
Plan your meal
Before you go, you may want to talk to your therapist or a nutritionist about what you should eat. No foods should be restricted, or you could be feeding into your eating disorder. Getting a plan together beforehand about what you will eat and the healthy portion size you should consume will be instrumental in removing any guessing you may have. Putting together a plan will help you to feel confident in your decisions so that no will see that you may be experiencing anxiety when it comes to choosing your food.
Exercise your mind
Although you may feel the need to over-exercise because you are scared you may be taking in too many calories that day, you should not overdo anything just because it is Thanksgiving. Not only do you need to plan your meal, but you might need to plan your exercise regimen as well to keep from doing too much. Instead of exercising, since taking a day off is not a bad thing, maybe take some time to journal about your fear or to meditate to bring you into a positive state of mind.
Unfollow your outlets
Social media, dieting newsletters, or any outlets that could talk about weight loss during the holidays should be unfollowed during this time. Some people may need the inspiration and you do not need anything that could get you to spiral out of control. Anything that could create emotional triggers should be avoided at all costs.
Remember you are in charge
The most important aspect to remember is that your eating disorder will do anything possible to get you back to abusing food. Any addiction is centered in the brain and you must do whatever you can to let the eating disorder know who is in charge. Use your recovery tools or go to a recovery meeting. Take the power out of your fear by talking about what you are feeling with a therapist, a sponsor, or a trusted friend so you can get out all your fears out before Thanksgiving Day instead of putting them right there on the table.
Thanksgiving may be a tough holiday to celebrate because it is completely dependent on food. Use these tools to make the best of this family holiday and not make your personal issues the focal point. Be prepared and pay attention to what Thanksgiving is all about – being thankful for all the things in your life.
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