Those in recovery from an eating disorder can still enjoy the tricks or treats of Halloween without having to turn off their porch lights and stay inside. (Although it’s perfectly fine to do that too!) Creating a plan for handling any negative feelings that come up will help you avoid resorting to unhealthy eating behaviors.

Facing Your Fear Foods

Fear foods are foods that cause intense stress and anxiety in people with bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder. Halloween candy and other sweet treats typically rank high on eating disorder patients’ lists of fear foods.

Those who restrict their caloric intake as part of their disorder are afraid of gaining weight if they indulge in something that they have forbidden. Those who binge may fear losing control, over-eating, and dealing with the physical discomfort that accompanies a binge. Both those who restrict and those who binge tend to want to avoid the guilt and shame they feel after eating a food that’s challenging for them.

If the thought of attending an event where many of your fear foods will be available makes you want to run and hide, try this Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) exercise. Ask yourself:

  • What are the facts of this situation?
  • What is the “threat” of the situation?
  • What is the worst case scenario?
  • How likely is that the worst case scenario will happen?
  • How would you cope if it did happen?

Answering these questions will help you to put things in perspective. Gaining a significant amount of weight or developing a health problem from eating a few pieces of candy is extremely unlikely, as is completely losing control and binging on all of the treats. You don’t have let your fear foods scare you away from a good time with friends and family.

The Costume Contest in Your Mind

By now, we’ve all seen the annual parade of sexualized Halloween costumes for women. They range anywhere from “Sexy Librarian” to “Sexy Hamburger.”

Halloween can be a time when women feel free to have fun by expressing their sexuality and exploring alter egos. Women with body image issues, though, may find themselves comparing themselves negatively to others and feeling tempted to re-engage in their eating disorder behaviors.

If you chose to dress up for Halloween, find a costume that you love and feel comfortable in. If you find yourself feeling triggered by what someone else is wearing, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that…

  • Comparative thinking is part of your eating disorder.
  • You don’t have to engage with comparative thoughts. When someone else looks good, it doesn’t mean that you look bad.
  • You don’t have to judge or berate people who make you feel insecure, even silently, to yourself. That will just leave you feeling angry, resentful, and miserable.

Take Care of Yourself

If it’s early in your recovery, and you don’t feel up to taking on these kinds of challenges, it’s perfectly fine to stay home. You are not obligated to put yourself in any situation that may compromise your recovery. You could always just invite a few understanding friends over for pumpkin carving or scary movies!

If your eating behaviors don’t match your goals, the Freedom from Emotional Eating workshop at the Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows may be for you. Whether you overeat, undereat, fluctuate back and forth, or do both at the same time, this workshop helps you see your current struggles with food through the lens of your personal history. The workshop is open to both men and women and is limited to only six attendees, so register today! Call 866-835-5431.

If you are struggling through the serious and potentially life-threatening stages of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, The Meadows Ranch has critical care and residential treatment programs available. For more information call 866-332-2919.