Learning to Love Thanksgiving

BY: Morgan Walker

DATE: November 20, 2015

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? For most, it’s a day off from work and school to join in celebration with family and friends and give thanks around the table lavished with a homemade feast. But, for those struggling with, or in recovery from an eating disorder this day can extremely challenging.

No matter where you are in your recovery or in your disorder, it is important to go into the holiday with a spirit of self-care and mindfulness. As we enter this day and the season to follow, consider some of the following tips to ease your way through the holidays.

  • Go in with a plan.

Know the situation that you will be going into, and use that information to establish your plan. Who will be there? Where are you going? What will be served, and how will it be served? Who or what is most likely to throw you off track? How can you make yourself more comfortable? Talk with your therapist and dietitian to help you prepare for this stressful day in advance. Discuss a meal plan for the day. Role-play with your providers in anticipation of any uncomfortable situations or comments made by friends and family members, who may mean well, but not completely understand the impact some comments may have on you.

  • Reach out to your support system.

You may find it helpful to share your anxieties with a family member and/or friend as the day approaches. If they know about the eating disorder, you can explain how this will be challenging day for you and ask for them to be there for you to offer extra support. Knowing that someone is available, either in person or by phone, can help you stick to your plan and remain calm.

  • Practice self-care.

Anticipating the situation can help with self-care. Decide how you will be able to take a brief escape for a break and take care of yourself when things become overwhelming. Breathe deeply. We really do tend to shorten our breaths when we are stressed and that can increase anxiety. Excuse yourself from the table to step outside and get some fresh, autumn air. Knowing what works best for you in anxiety-ridden situations will help to manage your stress in the most effective manner.

  • Keep to a regular predictable eating pattern.

Eating according to your plan throughout the day will keep you on track for a successful Thanksgiving meal. If you know that Thanksgiving dinner could turn into a binge, remember that skipping meals before the main meal is not a successful strategy. Skipping meals and snacks only focuses your mind on what your body is in need of—namely food, thereby setting you up for a binge episode.

  • Remember your values.

Thanksgiving is really not about the food. Thanksgiving is about expressing gratitude. It is one of the few holidays celebrated by all Americans. Rooted in history rather than religion, all come to the table to celebrate. During this day, take time to reflect on who and what you are thankful for. Honor your values, the hope and freedom in recovery included.

This Thanksgiving can be better than the last, just like today can be better than yesterday, and tomorrow can be better than today. Seek out warmth, support, and love during this holiday season. Be gentle with yourself at all times.